PM Olmert’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s remarks at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting today (Sunday), 2 December 2007:

"I, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will brief you this morning on last week’s meeting in Annapolis. There is no doubt that this was a positive meeting that will enable the negotiations process between us and the Palestinians to move forward.

As was communicated in the joint statement that has been placed before the Government and which was agreed on by us and the Palestinian Authority and recognized by the US President, an effort will be made to hold accelerated negotiations in the hope that it will be possible to conclude them in 2008; however, there is no commitment to a specific timetable regarding these negotiations. 

The assumption is that the two sides will enter negotiations with the intention of making every effort to move them forward. The most important thing in the joint statement – and this is what Foreign Minister Livni, who led our team, insisted upon, and we, of course, agreed to it – is that any future arrangement and agreement will be operationally subject to fulfilling all of the Roadmap commitments, including all of its stages and outlines. In other words, Israel will not have to carry out any commitment stemming from the agreement before all of the Roadmap commitments are met. 

I think that this is very important and assures the security component, which is – in our view, and in any eventuality and under any condition – the most important issue that we are dealing with. The very fact of the meeting, that so many Arab countries attended, even those that have no diplomatic relations with Israel and which have never recognized us, this framework that was completely linked to a possible peace settlement between us and the Palestinians, was – in our view – important, created the proper atmosphere and will provide the momentum that we believe must be applied in order begin substantive negotiations. 

By the way, one of the main issues on the meeting’s agenda was the need for Arab countries to normalize relations with the State of Israel, the importance of which was recognized not as a future matter but which must begin right now."

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Report of the Annapolis Conference presented by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni at the Cabinet meeting
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Last week was a good week for Israel, and we succeeded in meeting the goals we set for ourselves regarding the peace process.

The text of the Annapolis Joint Understanding contains several key issues regarding the peace process on which we insisted until the very last minute. Several points which were not included in the document, which I will enumerate, are no less important than those that were included.

  1. The pre-eminence of Roadmap implementation: Our implementation of the agreements will be conditional on an examination of actual implementation on the ground of the first phase of the Roadmap. This is a principle on which I insisted about throughout the talks, and an important element upon which the document was based.
  2. Israel’s hands will not be tied: There will be no agreement on core issues at this early stage, no inclusion of issues problematic for Israel within the framework of the negotiations – such as the Arab League initiative which includes some issues that are awkward for us – and Israel will not be bound to a time table. We want to negotiate, launching negotiations is in our interest, and we want to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible – but we did not commit ourselves to a time table that will bring direct international pressures to bear on Israel. It was not simple to achieve this, but we insisted.
  3. No international involvement throughout the process: We made it emphatically clear that the entire dialogue must be bilateral. It was important for us to make it clear that from now on the negotiations will be on the bilateral track, with no direct involvement of the international community.

Another important subject that found expression in Annapolis was the participation of the Arab countries, as part of the emerging struggle between moderates and extremists. The participation of the Arab countries at the foreign minister level, as well as their moderate demeanor, are not to be taken lightly.

In my discussions with Arab leaders at the conference and in my speeches, I made it clear to them that it is not Israel who requires their support, but rather the moderate Arab leaders. It is up to them to create an atmosphere that does not equate speaking to  Israel with treason to the Arab cause, and to make it clear that there are additional Arab bodies that support the dialogue. If you wait for the end of the process – you will lose the opportunity and the ability to influence and bring about change, and you will lose relevance with both the moderates and extremists.

The next test will be the donors conference in Paris. There we will see if they will continue with the dynamic created in Annapolis – in relation to the Palestinians as well as to Israel.

Annapolis was also a success in that it was made clear to everyone that negotiations do not limit Israel’s freedom to act on security issues. From Israel’s point of view, the Roadmap is the minimum basic demand. Security arrangements will also be part of the ongoing talks and serve as the basis for our positions.

To summarize, the meeting and resulting joint understanding advanced Israel’s standing and promoted Israeli interests with the Palestinians, the Arab countries and the entire world.