FM Livni participated in the discussion together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres.
View webcast: Enough is enough
Comments by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni at
Plenary discussion of Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Enough is enough
World Economic Forum
Davos, 25 January 2007
Distinguished Chairman, President Abbas, my colleague, Minister Peres, Ladies and gentlemen,
After watching together these wonderful children and youth calling upon us to make peace; after listening to President Abbas, I think that we all watched it with mixed feelings – on the one hand, a kind of sadness for lost opportunities, and on the other hand, hope. They gave me hope, but I think that our responsibility is to give them hope. I think that this is something that we owe them. They are our children and they are the future of our people. I think that if there is something that can come out of this room, it is a promise to generations to come, Palestinians and Israelis, that we will make all efforts to bring peace to our region.
For a better future, we must stick to the vision of two states – two states living side by side in peace – and examine, even in the most difficult times, what are the best ways to achieve or to advance this goal.
It is true that in both of our societies, there is sometimes deepest criticism about the possibility to end the conflict and to achieve peace. Looking back at past experience I can understand it. We tried almost everything.
We tried what is called a step by step approach in the Oslo Accords, and the agreements which were signed afterwards. The idea was to create confidence, but, unfortunately, it produced a lack of confidence. We tried the end game – at Camp David 2000 – where the idea was to try and end the conflict. It produced no agreement, but led to frustration and this is also part of our reality. And we tried a unilateral step – the disengagement plan – in which Israel dismantled settlements and took our forces out of the Gaza Strip. This in order to give the Palestinians the message that Israel means business; that we are willing to remove settlements; that we would like to live in peace and to give the Palestinians an opportunity to transform Gaza into a success, into the first part of a Palestinian state. But, the result is that Gaza now, is a terrorist nest, controlled by Hamas, by terrorist organizations.
Nevertheless, I still believe that this was the right thing to do. I do not regret it. But in order to achieve peace and in order to promote a process, we must stick to this vision of a two state solution and examine what the best steps to take are.
The current plan, the Roadmap, is a combination of the different approaches. On the one hand, it provides a political horizon for the Palestinians at the end of the road – a Palestinian state. On the other hand, there is a first phase during which the Palestinians must dismantle terrorist organizations in order to give the Israelis the understanding and the assurance that the Palestinian state is not going to be a terror state. The idea is to have two states living side by side in peace. This is a step by step process, which provides a real political horizon for the Palestinians.
I believe that a political horizon is vital to both our peoples – on the one hand, to provide a clear understanding of the vision of a Palestinian state, and the understanding that a Palestinian state is not an illusion; it is feasible, it is there, and it is a achievable; and, at the same time, to give Israelis the assurance that the concessions will not threaten their lives.
So, I think it is important that we try to understand – can we really agree on the same vision? We are using the same words, the two state solution, living side by side in peace. It looks like we both share the same vision, but we need to understand whether this is just a term of speech or we really mean the essence of this vision.
What is the meaning of two states? Two states, two homelands for two different people. One is Israel, a homeland for the Jewish people; a state which provided refuge for the Jews from Europe and for those who had to leave Arab countries, who came to Israel as their own homeland. By its very establishment, Israel provided the national answer to the Jewish people – those who live today in Israel, and those who live outside Israel.
So does the Palestinian state. The establishment of a Palestinian state as a homeland for the Palestinians will provide the answer, the national answer, to the Palestinian people wherever they are – those who live in the territories, and those who live outside of the territories, including the refugees. Thus, the establishment of a Palestinian state is the national answer to the Palestinian and is the only right and just solution to the refugee issue.
Two states, two homelands, living side by side in peace: Equally important is that the two states live side by side in peace and security. This means that we cannot allow the Palestinian state to be a terrorist entity; it cannot be ruled by a terrorist organization.
The first stage of the Roadmap defines this, and also the prerequisites set by the international community, that were adopted by the Quartet following the results of the elections to the Palestinian Authority. These requirements are the same for any Palestinian government – not only to accept former agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, but also to accept Israel’s right to exist, and to renounce violence and terrorism. These requirements are part of any process – they are not an obstacle. We are not looking for excuses not to promote the process, but we would like to promote the process the right way. So these are a part of any process and they can facilitate any genuine process.
I do not want to relate to the future borders of the Palestinian state, but since President Abbas mentioned the 1967 borders, I just want to say a few words. In 1967, there was no Palestinian state and there was no connection between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. So, it is for us to create something new. I believe that a Palestinian state is an Israeli interest as well as a Palestinian interest, but the future borders are a part of future negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Now, in order to realize this vision, we must take into account also the battle which is taking place in the region, between moderates committed to the vision of the two state solution, and extremists who are committed to destroying it.
For Teheran, for Hizbullah and for the Hamas, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not political but religious, and the two state solution does not comply with the agenda of hatred. They are opposed to co-existence and to the two state solution not just as a matter of policy, but as a matter of ideology.
The conflict is the consequence and not the cause for this ideology. Moderate leaders must provide answers to the new threats in the region, but there are also new opportunities; because we share the same goals and the same vision with all the moderates in the region. Talking about Israel, about moderates in the Palestinian Authority, about moderate Arab and Moslem leaders, the international community, and the free worl – it is not a zero sum game. To support Israel is not to be anti-Palestinian and to support the moderates is to fight for the same goals that we all believe in.
So, these are the challenges and I believe that this is the role of the international community: to disempower the extremists and to empower the moderates – these need to be simultaneous. One the one hand, to empower, to encourage, to strengthen the moderates and, on the other hand, to disempower, to maintain the pressure and the requirements, and to delegitimatize the extremists.
How best to do it – this, too, is a part of the negotiations that we should conduct with the Palestinians. But, of course, in order to strengthen the moderates, part of it the answer is financial support, and the other is providing political horizons, so that in future elections in the Palestinian Authority the voters can look at the possibilities and they will see clear distinctions between those who can deliver, on both the financial and the political levels; those who can give hope, and those who cannot deliver.
The international community must show determination and prevent any kind of flow of cash to the terrorist organizations, while supporting the moderates. We are willing to help as much as we can.
I know the international community expects to see progress. I can assure you there is nothing I want more. This is part of our dream; this is part of our goal. We would like to be a part of this process. This is my dream, this is our dream, this is the dream of the children we saw and this is the dream of the Israeli leadership.
Stagnation is not a part of the Israeli government policy but, at the same time we have to show responsibility for generations to come. We cannot afford to fool ourselves with false illusions. We have to challenge the problems facing us, including terror, even though it is a difficult task. There are difficult decisions to take on both sides. Fighting terrorism is one of the decisions, and we cannot afford to put this obstacle aside, because part of the two state vision is states living side by side in peace in security.
I know that it is not easy. It was also difficult for me to vote in favor of the Disengagement Plan. I voted for uprooting Israelis, in order to give peace a chance. So there are difficult decisions but the best way to tackle these challenges, is to provide answers – not to say OK, this is too difficult, let’s find something else. Because at the end of the day, it is there, and we have to provide an answer.
I would like to negotiate, to speak, to meet, to talk with Palestinians, because I believe that this is part of the need to share ideas, to find out what are the common denominators, to see what we can achieve. I would like to hear your concerns and I also like to share our concerns with you.
This is a part of any talks, of any meetings, and I believe that this is the right thing to do. But, at the same time, negotiations do not free us from the need to implement what we agreed upon.
The vast majority of Israelis believe in the two state solution, in the fullest sense of the term. I need to convince them that this is not a risk for Israel but that this is the true and right vision.
President Abbas, I am aware that you face difficult decisions. Compromising with the extremists will not promote anything, but it can lead to further stagnation. We have missed many opportunities in the past. The Palestinians could have celebrated their independent state, already six years ago, after Camp David, or even 60 years ago, after the United Nations Partition Plan. I say this not in order to place blame – it is not for me to blame or to find excuses, and there is no monopoly for mistakes on either sides. But the choice is not between all or nothing. We should find a way to promote a process. It may be true that there are new threats and challenges that face us, but there are also new opportunities. So let us hope that we will have the wisdom and the courage to take the right decisions and to implement them for a better future for generations to come.
Before we entered the room, I had the opportunity to meet with our chairman, Professor Klaus Schwab, and we discussed the best way to send a message of peace in the Middle East. I said, you know, every year on Passover we say, "Next year in Jerusalem." So, I said, why not hold this World Economic Forum in Jerusalem as a message to the region, to the Israelis, to the Palestinians, and to the young people here. This will be our goal in 2008, and I hope that we can send this message from Jerusalem to Israelis, Palestinians, to the region, that we are going to fulfill and implement this promise to the younger generations with this forum in Jerusalem.