FMs Livni and Aso met during the course of the the Japanese minister’s visit to Israel.
[Note: Throughout the press conference the Japanese minister spoke in Japanese. No translation is available.]
FM Livni: Thank you and welcome. I would like to welcome again Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso to Israel.
This is not our first meeting; I visited Japan a few months ago, and during this time between my visit to Japan and this visit to Israel there was an exchange of delegations and meetings, and this reflects the good friendship between Israel and Japan.
We believe that Japan has a very important role in the world’s decision-making, and we believe that we share the same goals and the same understanding when it comes not only to our bilateral relationship but also to the situation in the region.
Tomorrow, we are going to participate in a meeting between us and our colleagues, the Jordanian Foreign Minister and the representative of the Palestinian Authority [on the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity"]. This is a part of the Japanese initiative to support, not only the bilateral relations between Israel and the Palestinians when it comes to peace, but, as you say, the idea is to open a corridor for peace and prosperity, to encourage the private sector in order to give the Palestinians the hope that things can be changed.
The project also supplies an economic incentive to future cooperation, not only between Japan and the Palestinians, or Israel, but also between Israel and the Palestinians. The fact that this meeting is taking place tomorrow, I believe also represents the beginning maybe of normalization, and not only dialogue but more concrete things between Israel and the Palestinians.
I would like to thank you for your support and your initiative – not only in terms of the words, but also from the economic perspective. Thank you so much.
[Japanese FM speaks in Japanese]
Q: We know that Japan is engaged in quite a lot of contact with Iran – in financial trade and even military. In the event that the sanctions against Iran are increased by the decree of the United Nations how far will Japan be willing to go and to pay the price, to inflict penalties on Iran and in a manner that Iran will be forced to stop its efforts to gain the nuclear weapons? I would like to refer the same question to our Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni because you have discussed this matter; what is your impression from this discussion?
[Japanese FM replies in Japanese]
FM Livni: I would like to answer your question also, if I may, because it was raised in our conversation. We believe that Iran is one of the major threats, not only to the region, but also to the world, when it comes to the creation of weapons of mass destruction, and the need to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
I would like to say something that was presented also by my colleague here, but this is something that needs to be said also in Israel. As the foreign minister said, when it comes to the UN Security Council resolutions, there is a need to get everybody on board, and to adopt resolutions in consensus; sometimes there are compromises needed in order to get everybody on board.
I would like to say that, in making these compromises there was no need to convince Japan to understand the nature of the threat, or to vote for the sanctions. More than that, there are certain steps that to beyond the Security Council resolutions and adopting the sanctions that are part of the resolution. I would like to say that, recognizing the threat, Japan also took some steps that are not included on the list of sanctions of the Security Council. Japan was one of the first states that closed Iran’s connections to Japanese banks, and also a very big agreement on oil was stopped.
So, while there is no need to advocate for Japan here, sometimes, when we are talking about the need of the determination on the part of the international community and when there is some frustration coming from certain behavior or hesitation or fatigue on the part of some states, I think that when it comes to Japan, we showed our appreciation to Japan for taking the right steps.
Q: [in Japanese]
FM Livni: I would like to take this opportunity to make the untransparent process a transparent one; this is the reason why we are all here. The idea is that there is now a change in the Palestinian Authority. Since Hamas won the elections in the Palestinian Authority we had some troubles in our need to promote a process vis-a-vis the Palestinians since the Palestinian government did not comply with the requirements of the international community. Hamas, as you know, is a designated terrorist organization also in Japan.
The problem was that, on the one hand, we needed to promote a process, because this was also a part of our interest and we are not looking for stagnation as a policy. And, on the other hand, there was a problematic situation. Since the establishment of the new government in the Palestinian Authority we feel that there is a chance to promote a process, a real process. So there are certain things that are a part of what we call the short-term steps, as the foreign minister mentioned: prisoners, money and road blocks, and this can ease the lives of the Palestinians – especially, of course, in the West Bank, where the new government is in control.
But we do believe that, in order to give hope to both the two peoples, the Israelis and the Palestinians, we need to give some substance to the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. The idea is to reach the widest common denominator between Israel and the Palestinians, to reach an understanding on principles and even more, when it comes to the understanding of the nature of the Palestinian state, what is going to be the nature of the prospective peace between Israel and the Palestinians. There are some sensitive issues, but we should continue this dialogue and there is in fact an ongoing dialogue between Prime Minister Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas.
The basic idea is that the dialogue on the political horizon will be a bilateral dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. But the role of the international community and the role of the Japan is of the utmost importance – because, at the end of the day, it is not only about the creation of the Palestinian state, which is needed. This is the the answer for the political aspirations of the Palestinians, for the national aspirations of the Palestinians, of course, as long as it does not pose a threat to Israel and as long as the new Palestinian government can also deliver and can implement and fulfill its obligation when it comes to the performance.
But as I said before, there are certain things that are related to the economic situation on the Palestinian side. They need to send a message to the Palestinians that supporting the moderates means that they have hope. The idea is to create new jobs, to create a new situation in the West Bank. And this is also a message that the role of the international community is of the utmost importance, because that this is something that the Palestinians cannot do by themselves; this is something that is not only part of the bilateral track between Israel and the Palestinians, and this is the point where the message to the Palestinians is crucial because it is part of their hope for the future to live a decent life.
Q: Foreign Minister Livni, are you concerned by the statements being made in Europe today, the cracks in the boycott against Hamas – first in Britain and then in Italy by Prime Minister Prodi – that there should be a dialogue with Hamas. How does Israel respond to this, what does Israel think about this, will the foreign ministry do anything about this?
FM Livni: Hamas is a terrorist organization and it has also been designated as terrorist organization in Japan. The requirements of the international community are clear: to accept the right of Israel to exist, to stop and renounce terrorism and to accept former agreements. I believe that these requirements are not negotiable. I believe these are the basic needs.
The ideology of Hamas is an extreme ideology and they are not fighting for the national aspirations of the Palestinians. Rather, they are fighting to deprive others of their rights – and the others are us. I believe that the new Palestinian government understands the need to fight these extremists and Hamas, and I believe that the role of the international community is crucial in this. I believe that any compromise on terror, any compromise with extremists can lead to undermining the new government in the Palestinian Authority.
I know that it looks tempting and I know that the international community is eager to see a kind of understanding between Hamas and Fatah, and this wrong; this is a mistake. This is a big mistake; this is a huge mistake. There is now a chance in the dialogue between Israel and the new Palestinian government; we can reach something, it is there. But the only chance of success is in a dual strategyof working with the moderates while delegitimizing the extremists. Because the Palestinians need to understand also that there is no chance with these terrorists, with their extreme ideology. Israel is not punishing the Hamas because of their acts of terrorism but because there is no hope for the Palestinians and for Israel with Hamas on board.