The situation in Gaza and the pictures revealed the nature of Hamas. But I came here not to speak about the negative point of view, but to speak about new opportunities.
Press Statement by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni at the 2808th meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, Luxembourg
It was not easy to leave Israel during this time, but, because of the utmost importance of this meeting and the mutual understanding of what lies ahead and the situation on the ground, I decided to come, simultaneously with the visit of the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to the United States. In a way we are working together in order to share our ideas and to see not only the mutual goals, but what we can do in the next few days with regard to the situation on the ground.
Basically, there are dramatic events taking place in the region.
The situation in Gaza and the pictures that you all saw revealed the nature of Hamas, not only as an ideological group which is based on extremist ideology, but also something about the nature of Hamas, the brutal way they act against their own brothers. I can assure you that the first feeling of any Israeli, not only Israeli ministers, is: If this is what they do to their own brothers, what if it comes to Israelis?
But I came here not to speak about the negative point of view, but to speak about opportunities, and there are also new opportunities. The new opportunity is the fact that because of the extreme situation, because of the difficulties, Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, needed to take a decision, which he did. Indeed, the creation of a new Palestinian state can be the opportunity for the future of the Palestinians, for the future of Israel and for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian process.
It is important to understand that the strategy – and it is not only the Israeli strategy but the strategy of the world – when it comes to the Palestinian Authority the strategy is to make a clear distinction between the moderates and the extremists, between Hamas and Fatah – to weaken the extremists, not to give legitimacy to the extremists, and to build a genuine alternative to Hamas with the moderates.
Of course, during the last year, there were some times when the distinction was not that clear, especially after the creation of the unity government amongst the Palestinians that led, in a way, to stagnation. But right now, when the distinction is very clear, and when there is a new government on the Palestinian side – though, unfortunately, the situation in the Gaza Strip differs from the situation in the West Bank, I believe that this is an opportunity. This is an opportunity to work with the new government, this is an opportunity to send to the Palestinians the message that there is an alternative, and when the Palestinian government supports the vision of the two-state solution, when the government accepts the requirements of the international community which were proposed by the Quartet more than a year ago, the meaning is that this creates also new opportunities for the Palestinians in terms of economic aspects and also when it comes to the political horizon of the two-state solution.
So, the idea is to work with this government with regard to the money which is being held by Israel. The problem before was the fact that the Palestinian government could not accept the requirements of the international community. Now there is an opportunity to transfer the money to this government and, of course, we would like to take this opportunity to create a political horizon for the Palestinians – as well as for Israelis – in terms of the two-state solution and to make this vision of a Palestinian state more concrete.
Of course, this is only the beginning of the process, but it is important to keep this distinction between the moderates and the extremists. And everybody should choose which side he is on. Abu Mazen took a decision and the Arab world, too, should choose the side of the moderates; and, of course, based on their own values and nature, the European Union is a part of the moderate camp. There is a clear need to support the moderates while delegitimizing the extremists.
In response a questions, FM Livni clarified the Israeli position on the transfer of outstanding funds to the Palestinian Authority:
Israel made is clear that the problem with the money was the fact that we had a Hamas-led government and then a unity government that did not meet the requirements of the international community. Now that the nature of the new government is a government which supports, of course, the requirements, because this is the meaning of this new government, this is the vision of Abu Mazen, or Mahmoud Abbas as the President. There is a huge difference between Salam Fayyad as finance minister in a government that cannot meet the requirements, and Salam Fayyad as the prime minister of this new government. So, yes, Israel is going to work with Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad to transfer the money.
Israel has expressed its willingness openly and publicly, and all the details should be agreed between Israel and Salam Fayyad and Abu Mazen. The message was clear. We are not looking for excuses not to transfer the money. It is part of our goal that the Palestinians understand that there is hope with the moderates. We are not looking for excuses, we are not looking for stagnation as a policy – it is against our own interests. But there are, of course, certain questions, and there is a need for a meeting to discuss these issues. We believe that time is of the essence, also when it comes to the situation and to the new opportunities on the Palestinian side.