FM Livni: This visit in Jerusalem is part of the ongoing mutual effort to empower the moderates throughout the region in the struggle against extremism and terror.

 Joint Press Conference by FM Livni and US Secy Rice


Photo: Reuters

Joint Press Conference by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

FM LIVNI: Good evening. I would like to welcome again in the region, in Jerusalem, the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This visit in Jerusalem is part of the ongoing mutual effort to empower the moderates throughout the region in the struggle against extremism and terror. Tonight, we will continue our consultations in order to find the best way to do it on a variety of different fronts – in Lebanon, Iran, and of course the Palestinian Authority. Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the goal is clear: two states, two different homelands living side by side in peace and security.

The elections in the Palestinian Authority last year made the situation more complicated, more dangerous and the requirements of the international community from any Palestinian government are clear. Of course, part of our responsibility is to give the moderate Palestinians a political horizon, while providing the Israelis security: in Sderot, where they are being attacked on a daily basis, and elsewhere. This is, of course, part of any process.

I would like to thank personally Secretary of State Rice for her determination and understanding. This is part of our mutual responsibility to find a way for a better future for us all. Thank you so much.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Minister Livni. It’s great to be here again in Jerusalem. Indeed, this is a very important and challenging time in the Middle East, but a time that I believe does have promise if we exercise our responsibilities with creativity and with resolve. It is a time when extremist forces are attempting to make it impossible to have the kind of Middle East in which Israelis and Palestinians and other people of the Middle East can live in peace and in which democracy can make progress. But we’re determined to resist their efforts and also to strengthen the hand of those who wish to resist their efforts, because I believe most people of the Middle East, in fact, do want to live in a place where their children can grow up in peace.

We will discuss, of course, the strategic issues concerning Iran. I will brief the Foreign Minister on the President’s Iraq plan. And of course, we will talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, how to accelerate progress on the roadmap, how to work toward a political horizon, because I think that we both understand fully that for both the Palestinian and the Israeli people, two states living side by side in peace is not just a dream, it’s something that we must make a reality. And so thank you very much for having me here.

Q: Madame Secretary and Minister Livni, why do you both think that there is an opening and some promise in the situation right now between Israel and the Palestinians, given the fact that Israel’s government has been historically weak politically right now and there is so much conflict among the Palestinians? What makes you think that there is some hope for an opening?

And secondly, Madam Secretary, how does the escalating U.S. challenge to Iran impact this conflict and the rest of the region?

SECRETARY RICE: Perhaps I can start on the second part of that. Andrea, the United States is simply responding to Iranian activities that have been going on for a while now that threaten not just to destabilize the chance for Iraq to proceed to stability but that also endanger our forces. And the President has made clear that we will go after the networks that are producing explosive devices that are threatening our forces. It’s a force protection issue. We’ve also made clear that this is something that can be done inside of Iraq. I think that General Pace made that clear yesterday.

As to the other announcements that the President has made, the United States has long historic interests in the Persian Gulf and we have always, President after President after President, sought to have a force posture that makes clear that we can defend those interests.

We also, of course, continue to work with the international community to try and arrest Iran’s movement toward a nuclear weapon. The Chapter 7 resolution that was passed just before Christmas is an important step, but it is also important to recognize that efforts that individual states might make, like the designation by the United States of Iranian banks, is also important to denying funding to terrorism and to the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

As to why there may be an opening now, first of all, one always has to remain optimistic and one has to exercise one’s responsibilities to try and pursue peace. I would just cite the very important speech that Prime Minister Olmert made holding out a hand to the Palestinians, the very good meeting that’s just taken place between Prime Minister Olmert and Prime Minister Abbas, the work that Minister Livni has been doing in Europe and in the region to promote the formulation of a foundation for moving to a two-state solution. And perhaps most of all, I really do think that people want to try and end this conflict. There are a lot of obstacles in the way, but the purpose of diplomacy, the purpose of leadership, is to try to remove those obstacles so that this conflict can finally end.

FM LIVNI: This vision of two states living side by side in peace and security, it’s not only the Israeli government policy. This represents the vast majority of Israelis, so there is no connection between the political strength of any Israeli government and the need to explore and to find a way to promote a process based on two pillars. One, of course, is the political horizon for the Palestinians, and the other is giving Israeli security. This is going to be part of any process.

I do believe that if an Israeli government comes to the Israeli public with this vision, saying that on one hand there’s a need to promote this process of a two-state solution, and on the other hand that it is our responsibility to provide security to Israelis wherever they are, this is something that the Israeli public can not only accept but also support. I believe that this is our responsibility, and this is the reason that the Israeli public voted for us. There are, of course, new threats in the region. I can say and I already said that the situation now is more complicated, but part of our responsibility is also to see not only the threats, but whether there are also new opportunities.

This vision represents not only the Israeli interest but the interest of the moderates, both in Israel and among the Palestinians. And not only the Palestinians, but also moderates in other Arab and Muslim states in the region who understand that we share the same interests, that it’s not a zero-sum game in which helping Israel is anti-Palestinian. And so even though there are new threats, I also think that there are new opportunities. It’s not easy. It’s going to be complicated. But it is part of our responsibility to find a way to do it.

Q: Madame Secretary, given the suggestion that the Palestinian Authority (inaudible) is ready to waive the first phase of the roadmap, do you support their ideas? And for Foreign Minister Livni, are you going to propose new ideas to the Secretary in steps on the roadmap?

FM LIVNI: The Roadmap represents a situation that was clear after Camp David. We found that the idea of solving the conflict in one conference is impossible. There is a need to give the Palestinian a political horizon, but the process must be divided into some phases. This is the basic principle of the Roadmap. I was not talking about skipping or bypassing some of the phases of the Roadmap, but I do believe that talking with the Palestinians today on what are the best steps that we can take, what vision to make the political horizon more concrete – this is something that we have to do. But we must distinguish between talking with the Palestinians and implementing the phases in a different order.

SECRETARY RICE: We continue to support the Roadmap as a reliable guide to the President’s two-state vision, in fact the vision now of all who are signed on to it. One of the very great values of the Roadmap is that it has international support. It is the Quartet’s document, it is Israel’s document, it is the Palestinians’ document, and it has therefore I think a very important function. And we should never as we look for ways to push forward and to keep moving forward throw out the good work that we’ve done before, and obviously the Roadmap is very important.

I want just to note too that the President has always said that he believes that one of the most important things that he could do in his Presidency would be to make progress toward, indeed if possible establish the foundation for a Palestinian state. And so nothing should get in the way of the broadest possible conversations certainly between friends about how to do that.