The donors’ conference in Paris after Annapolis will help to create and to change reality on the ground for the Palestinian Authority.

 Joint press conference with FM Livni and French FM Kouchner


FM Tzipi Livni and FM Bernard Kouchner in JerusalemPhoto: Orel Cohen/Flash 90

Joint Press Conference with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner
November 18, 2007

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI:  Bonjour. Thank you. I would like to welcome Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, to Israel. We just discussed the situation in the region and of course the threat coming from Iran and the process between Israel and the Palestinians before Annapolis, and we also discussed the day after Annapolis. I think that the meeting which is the most important the day after Annapolis is the Paris Conference, in which the donor states will help to create and to change reality on the ground for the Palestinian Authority, according to the vision of two states for two peoples. 

The bilateral track between Israel and the Palestinians is the most important one but the role of the international community and especially the Arab world is no less important. It is important that the international community supports the bilateral track and, of course, supports capacity-building in the Palestinian Authority. Changing the situation on the ground, as will be part of the Paris Conference, is no less important.

When it comes to the Arab world, we believe that the role of the Arab world is to support the moderates in the Palestinian Authority, to support the bilateral track, to be in Annapolis and to support the process and not to put conditions in order to participate and to attend the meeting.  But, basically, we all discussed it and it was enlightening, like always. Thanks.

FOREIGN MINISTER KOUCHNER:  Thank you, Tzipi.  I want to thank you for your warm welcome and it was very interesting to discuss because there is an emergency now. I met with Ehud Barak yesterday. This morning I met with the Prime Minister, then with Yossi Beilin and Abed Rabbo, and with Tzipi now.

We were together in Lisbon last week. Now we are in a real emergency period because we’re facing the Annapolis Conference, some particular problems in Lebanon and an election meanwhile. Then after – but with a real link between the two events – Annapolis will drive us to the Paris Conference, and the Paris Conference is the place where we have to give flesh to the decision and perspectives accepted in Annapolis, perspectives concerning the main issue – I’m talking for myself and on the part of my people for 25 years: a Palestinian state.

So the Paris Conference, the donors’ conference, must be prepared as a success in various fields – some particular items like security, like administration, like offering training for the police, etc.; and economic projects, like offering to the donors, not only to the nations, including to personal donors of foundations, private money, to businesspeople – a sort of shopping list, in which they can participate on the setting up of some project.

We received two days ago a very good draft document from the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Salam Fayyad, and it was a very good surprise – not completely achieved because we have to offer this perspective to the World Bank and some international institutions, etc. – but a real series of projects. So that’s why we are considering Annapolis not only as an achievement but as the beginning of the setting up of that Palestinian state living alongside Israel.

Two states for two peoples – we are looking for that – all the activists, all the militants for peace, for years and years. We have the opportunity to play a role from one conference to the other. I have to underline, of course, the role of my good friend, Tony Blair, as a representative of the Quartet, and you have met with my colleague, the minister for foreign affairs for the UK. We are all working in that direction with strengths and hope. Thank you.

Q:  A question to Minister Livni, what are the gestures that Israel will bring to the Annapolis Summit? Is it only a declaration that it’s going to implement the first days of the Roadmap and to freeze the settlements or is it more than that? What about releasing prisoners? We heard that there are some disagreements between the Israelis and the Palestinians and the Americans about the numbers.  Is Israel going to raise the number?

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI:  Well, basically, the success of the Annapolis meeting is the beginning and launching of the process, a dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians on all of the outstanding issues that are needed to be solved before and in order to create a Palestinian state as part of this region of two states for two people, two different homelands for two different peoples. 

It’s important to remember that in the last seven years, there was none. Israel took a unilateral step when it came to the disengagement from Gaza, and the situation on the ground with the Palestinian Authority is difficult enough, but we decided not to take it as an excuse not to promote the process and we need and we want to reach an understanding with the pragmatic leaders.  But of course any understanding will be subject to the implementation of the Roadmap at the end of the negotiations.

So, basically, this is the real beginning of something that I believe should be embraced by the world. Israel accepted and Israel is willing to implement its obligations according to the Roadmap, as we expect the Palestinians to implement their part of the Roadmap, especially the parts which relate to Israel’s security. Because as the future Palestinian state being a viable and prosperous Palestinian state is part of the Israeli interest, we believe that Israel’s security is part of the Palestinian interest as well.

So there are certain things that are part of the implementation of the first phase of the Roadmap and there are some what we call CBMs [confidence building measures] that Israel is thinking of taking in order to support the process as such, even though it is not part of the implementation of the first phase of the Roadmap. 

Tomorrow there’s going to be a Cabinet meeting and we will discuss all the issues, so excuse me for not referring to the exact number of prisoners that will be released. But we believe that in order to see that we – I think that both sides are serious, but Israel is serious, and we are talking not only about a virtual process but we want to change also the reality on the ground, as we expect the Palestinians to change the reality on the ground when it comes to Israel’s security.

Q:  Does the headline of an Israeli newspaper this morning reflect a change in your position about Iran?

FOREIGN MINISTER KOUCHNER:  Good question. The horrible title of this article doesn’t reflect the French position. The French position is very clear and is not changed at all. We are offering to this very difficult problem of the nuclear power – not the civilian nuclear power in Iran; they have the right to set up civilian nuclear power and we are ready to help them – but we are not ready to accept an atomic bomb, a military power. I’ve been very clear on that.

So we maintained – this was the French role in New York – the unity of the six P3 + 3: Russian, Chinese, United States, British, German and French. We maintained the unity of this group. We had a document. We signed all the documents waiting for ElBaradei to sign the report at the end of November. Then if we six are all in agreement in that period, going back all together to the Security Council and, if it may happen, offering a new resolution with new international sanctions accepted by the UN system.

Meanwhile, all the European nations signed the 27 nation document while working on national or European sanctions. We are working; we are not imposing for the time being, certainly not.

And at the same time, with big strengths and obstination, we are talking to the Iranians. Discussion, discussion, discussion.  Diplomacy, diplomacy, diplomacy. So I was really surprised to discover this particularly virulent position of France in the title of this newspaper, and it doesn’t correspond to any change, nothing – negotiation in the front line. And meanwhile, we are offering and strengthening sanctions and we are absolutely conscious about the threat, the coming danger, the universal real danger of offering to this particularly dangerous region a sort of nonproliferation. So we are against proliferation, and proliferation starts with one bomb in Iran.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: I would like to add a few things about the last IAEA report on Iran, because clearly it is reaffirmed that Iran is in violation of the resolution of the Security Council and is promoting its nuclear program, and this is something that the international community needs to address. Clearly Iran is trying to gain more time. While the international community is talking about sanctions, they are continuing in their attempts to achieve the nuclear weapon. So I believe the determination of the international community is needed, more sanctions by the Security Council plus more sanctions that can enhance the resolutions of the Security Council that can be taken by the Europeans as such or by other members of the international community as states, but also by the private sector. I believe that this is needed – more enhanced, strong and immediate sanctions that can change the situation and the Iranians’ plan.

Q:  If I may, why did you recently ask the Palestinians as a precondition to recognize Israel as a Jewish state at this moment, putting at risk the very difficult process you are trying to start again?

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI:  Israel didn’t put anything as a precondition, but I would like to explain to you the vision.

When the world is talking about the need to create a Palestinian state, I am sure that this is part of the vision of two states for two peoples. The whole idea or the demand of the Palestinians was to create a state in order to give an answer to their own national situation, in order to give an answer to their need of self-determination in a state of their own. So in translating the basic words of two states for two peoples, the way I understand it, the way the international community I’m sure understands it, is that as Israel was created in the past in order to give an answer and to create a homeland for the Jewish people, as Israel absorbed the refugees who needed to leave Arab states with nothing and came to Israel, and Israel absorbed them because this is part of the raison d’être of the State of Israel – so does the creation of the Palestinian state.

So it’s not about asking the Palestinians something which relates to the identity of the State of Israel, but the understanding that the goal of the process is the creation of two states for two peoples because at the end of the day, the conflict is a conflict between two nations. The conflict is between the two peoples. The fact that Israel needs to defend itself and the fact that Israel is fighting for its existence since it was established is not because Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, but because Israel was created as a Jewish state according to the United Nations resolution.

In 1947, before the State of Israel was established, the world decided to create a Jewish state. The Arab world rejected it then. By the way, the Palestinians could have celebrated the 60th anniversary of a Palestinian state. They could have celebrated, by the way, the seventh anniversary of the Palestinian state if they had accepted something that was on the table at Camp David seven years ago.

So basically, it’s not putting obstacles in the way; it’s just understanding where we are going together. And I believe in the dialogue. I believe in the bilateral track. I believe that the goal, the just solution to the national aspirations, on the one hand, of the Jewish people was the creation of Israel, and for the Palestinians it’s creating a Palestinian state in order to give them the national answer. What else is to be discussed on this obvious thing, excuse me?

Q: To Mrs. Livni, what do you think about Knesset member Ahmed Tibi, who went to Abu Mazen and told him not to give up on this issue? And, again, can I ask is Israel prepared to weigh the possibility of foregoing the definition of Israel as the Jewish state, if we hear what the Palestinians say that maybe they will not come or maybe they will not stand near the microphone with you at the end of Annapolis? And what do you think, again, about Ahmed Tibi who went to Abu Mazen?

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI:  I just answered your second question, but I can say that the idea of creating a Palestinian state is to give a national answer to the Palestinians, wherever they are. Those who live in the territories, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, those who live outside of the territories, whether they live in different refugee camps or in Israel – it’s the national answer to them. But, of course, any Israeli citizen is a citizen with equal rights. Israel is a homeland to the Jewish people and a democracy as well.

So, basically, I believe that by doing so, Ahmed Tibi and some of his friends are working against something that they fought for in the future. Because if they represented here in Israel what is called the "Palestinian cause" and demand the creation of the Palestinian state, then clearly the creation of the Palestinian state is the answer to the national situation of the Palestinians. By saying today that, on one hand, they demand a Palestinian state in order to give an answer to the national aspirations of the Palestinians, but simultaneously they are talking in terms of national aspirations inside Israel, this is going to make a huge problem on the way of our two peoples to find an end to conflict and the end of all claims.

And I believe that it plays against also the nature of the existence of the State of Israel. This is part of our – it’s not a constitution but our basic laws, and this is something that I said also before to some representatives of the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens. They are equal rights citizens, but the creation of the Palestinian state gives them the national answer. As individuals, they can live in Israel and be citizens with equal rights because Israel is a democracy. But simultaneously they cannot ask for the declaration of a Palestinian state plus working against the nature of the State of Israel as homeland to the Jewish people.

Q:  I have one question for both of you. Ms. Livni, you say that Israel is ready to implement its obligations concerning the Roadmap. What kind of gesture is Israel considering? And Monsieur  Kouchner, three months ago you were very optimistic about the creation of a Palestinian state in weeks or months. Are you less optimistic now? Is the pessimism of Mr. Abbas affecting you?

FOREIGN MINISTER KOUCHNER: [Replies in French – reiterates his faith that the international conference will succeed, followed by the Paris donor’s conference.]

I maintain my obstination from an optimist’s position – thanks you to Tzipi and thanks to the people I’m going to meet on the Palestinian side. This is something very new that Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen both want to be effective and successful. The others who were not part of the negotiations, are not only jealous but they want to interfere. They want to feed their problem. For the time being, let them do that, and let’s meet in Annapolis, all of us, and be positive.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI:  Basically, according to the Roadmap, there are some obligations taken by the Israeli side referring to the removal of settlements, outposts and so on. This is part of our current negotiations with the Palestinians about the timetable, and how to do it. On the other hand, there are certain things that are not part of the Roadmap but we think that maybe these kind of confidence building measures can be taken by Israel in order to send a message to the Palestinians and to the Arab world that we’re willing to change reality on the ground in order to ease the life of the Palestinians during the negotiations, and before the negotiations, in order to create an atmosphere of peace, I would say, not only in terms of negotiating peace but also to change reality on the ground, as we expect the Palestinians also to change reality on the ground when it comes to Israel’s security.