The Arab role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is crucial. We believe in normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world.
Statement by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni at Press conference with German FM Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Jerusalem, May 7, 2007
[Note: FM Steinmeier spoke in German. Translation into English unavailable.]
FM Livni: I would like to welcome a friend to Israel, Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who came to Israel after visiting some other states in the region. It was a great opportunity to discuss the situation in the region, the relations between Israel and the Palestinians, what I hope are maybe the new opportunities in the region, and also the sensitive situation in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority.
Of course, there are challenges and difficulties, but the Israeli government policy is that stagnation is not the best policy, and we are trying to work with the Palestinians in order to promote a dialog on some issues that can give the Palestinians a political horizon.
The dialog between Israel and the Palestinians is based on the nature of the Palestinian state and, for me, it was, of course, interesting to hear in the report [from my colleague] of meetings with some representatives of the Arab League, news of how some of our neighbors see the situation and the best way to promote the process.
We discussed also of course, the Iranian threat, the situation in Lebanon, and the need to provide an answer to the rearmament of the Hizbullah.
So, for me, it was fruitful and enlightening discussion, and thank you again.
In response to questions, FM Livni added:
The sensitive political situation in Israel is not a secret, but I do believe that when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, when it comes to the Israeli need to normalize its relationships with the entire Arab world, the Israeli government represents a vast majority of Israelis. Although there are differences between what is called left and right in Israel and maybe between different political parties in Israel, when it comes to promoting a peace process, to living in peace with the Palestinians, to the goal of two states living side by side in peace – this is something which represents the Israeli public. So, of course, we have to face the current sensitive situation, this crisis, and this is something that we are going to face in the next few weeks. But I believe and I hope that since, as I have said before, stagnation is not the best policy, that even during these sensitive days we can do the right thing in order to represent the Israeli interest in peace.
I will be going to Cairo on Thursday this week. This was published by the Egyptian foreign minister, so I can share it with you.
The idea is to speak. Of course, there are some bilateral issues between Israel and Egypt. When it comes to Sinai, or the Egyptian and the Palestinian border, it is crucial to halt the smuggling of weapons from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. This is something that, of course, will be raised. But there is also the Arab League initiative and the fact that the Egyptians plus the Jordanians are those who were nominated to represent the Arab League ideas to Israel, and I am sure that this will be part of the agenda in my meetings in Cairo, and I am looking forward to it.
But I would like to say something basic on the Arab League initiative. When it comes to the Arab role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I think it is crucial. The idea of normalizing relations with Israel, of course, is a positive development for Israel. These are good signs. We believe in normalizing the relations between Israel and the Arab world.
Of course, the linkage between the relations of the Arab world with Israel to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is something which we can understand. But I do believe that to simply present a plan to Israel, saying that these are the parameters for the final status agreement – this is wrong, I think that this can lead to stagnation.
The idea is that Israel and the Palestinians should negotiate the final status issues on a bilateral track. I believe that the Arab League can support the Palestinians in times of concessions, because, clearly, any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is based on concessions on both sides. And it is about time that the Arab League supports the moderates in the Palestinian Authority and enables them to compromise on certain issues which relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and not to adopt a position of "take it or leave it."
I believe that this will be a part of the upcoming agenda between Israel and the Arab world. Of course, Israel has its own position about the way to promote the process, how to end the conflict, and the parameters of how to translate the vision of two states living side by side in peace into a more concrete plan.