Israel decided to conduct a dialogue alongside the implementation of the first stage of the Roadmap.

Address by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the Knesset Plenum
Towards Annapolis – The Israel-Palestinian Peace Process
November 12, 2007

Mr. Chairman, distinguished Knesset,

I agree with the beginning of MK Limor Livnat’s address regarding our vision. The vision does indeed need to be about us, and the State of Israel’s vision is the safe existence of Israel as a democratic Jewish state with egalitarian values. The State of Israel embraced a way to achieve this vision, which is the establishment of two national states living alongside each other in peace. We advocate the principle that establishment of a Palestinian national state has to coincide with the war on terror.

Some people ask why there should be a peace process now. It’s a legitimate question. When we look from the outside at what’s taking place at home, and when we open our eyes, we can see that processes in the region are becoming extreme – less nationalist and more religious. The two-state principle provides an answer to nationalist conflicts like the one we have with the Palestinians. There is no solution to religious conflicts.

Why undergo this process if it entails a risk? There is a risk in any process; and both a price and a risk in doing nothing. A process also means a chance, whereas inaction means no chance. So who do you talk to?

I wish to clarify a few things. I think it will also answer some things regarding what is supposed to happen before, during, and the day after Annapolis.

The main intention and goal of the summit is to get a process started between Israel and the Palestinians. If anyone thinks that in Annapolis they will be voting for, accepting or ratifying understandings on the core issues that have anything resembling concessions, or understandings on both our and the Palestinians’ most sensitive issues – that’s not the process we’re facing.

Our intention is for the process to get started in Annapolis. So whoever is worried about paying a heavy price for dinner in Annapolis, or maybe having the whole thing blow up in our faces, or our making difficult concessions before then – I can understand the concern, since there have been such expectations for a long time. Today we are on the road to a process – which is prearranged, understood, responsible and structured, that will begin in Annapolis – regarding the most sensitive issues.

There is a day before and a day after. I have explained what we are talking about, with whom we are talking, and where we are going.

Anyone with eyes can see – and this is part of our responsibility – the situation in Gaza and understand that the legitimate Palestinian government headed by Salam Fayyad, or Abu Mazen as President -even if they can or wish to advance the two-state principle and although they are partners to the principle that terror is not a means of achieving Palestinian national goals – when it comes to actual implementation, there are certainly problems carrying it out. They do not have absolute control in Gaza; Hamas has control. There are problems in Judea and Samaria as well.

On the other hand, on the time axis, when we look at what’s happening both in the Palestinian Authority and in the entire region, the situation is not working in favor of anyone wishing to promote the two-state principle. Domination by extremists is not an isolated incident that ends with Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, nor is it a single occurrence in only one location.

Therefore, our duty lies partly in making sure we have a partner for talks and understandings on the permanent status issues – those issues still unresolved between the Palestinians and us. Provided that we know how to do this the right way, and as long as we know, determine and stipulate ahead of time, before entering the process, that even if we have a partner today and even if it is our duty to examine whether the partner on the other side is capable of reaching the understandings with us, they still have the burden of proof during implementation.

Before this partner turns from a partner for understandings to a partner for implementation, they will have to carry out the Roadmap. So the talks being held today with them hold no immediate concessions. That was the condition for embarking on this dialogue. That was part of the basic understandings, and we are still making progress. I am not crazy about every word in the Roadmap, but I do think that its fundamental principle, that the way to a Palestinian state is through a war on terror, is the correct principle and it is important for us to insist on it every step of the way.

The Roadmap establishes the principle of the Palestinian obligation to fight terror and incitement, alongside Israel’s obligations, and only after fulfillment of this stage will there be a dialogue which will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state according to the conditions of the permanent arrangement.

Israel has decided to conduct a dialogue alongside the implementation of the first stage of the Roadmap. After that, the condition for carrying out all the understandings reached in the dialogue will be the execution of all stages of the Roadmap, including fighting terror.

There are two assumptions, each of which affects the conclusion. One comes from the assumption that just entering the dialogue is a step in which you give something for nothing in return. I think that the dialogue represents the interests of the State of Israel. I think that as long as there are parties with whom I might be able to reach understandings – which in the first stage will be understandings on paper, until implementation – it is my duty to check and discover whether there is such a partner.

None of us intends or is authorized to surrender security, so when the dialogue is over, even if we don’t succeed in signing a document which I see as representing Israel’s interests, it is our duty to guarantee Israel’s security. Therefore, the implementation of all future understandings will be subject to full compliance not only with all the Roadmap conditions, but also with whatever is determined in the document in the context of Israel’s security.

As time passes, when we are not talking with the Palestinians, other events outside this arena are taking place, such as the extremists getting stronger at the expense of the moderates. Some of what was discussed here regarding the erosion of Israel’s fundamental positions is true. An example of this process is evident when you speak in terms of the world already accepting the principle of a Palestinian state – what about our interests? What about our security interests?

Limor Livnat mentioned the question of leaving Gaza. I still think that the decision to get out of Gaza and the decision on disengagement was right, and it’s a good thing we got out of there. But as I said even then, and today I say it again, part of what we need to do is to try and reach an agreement, and not just to throw the key to the other side. Part of our duty is also to determine what will happen on the other side of the border, and if we reach understandings – that will be good. And if we don’t reach understandings, then we certainly won’t move forward with implementation.

If anyone thinks that inaction represents Israel’s best interests, he is wrong on every count. At the moment, the next step is entering a dialogue. Annapolis, I’m sorry to say, has become, for various reasons, the main event. The big drama. It’s not the drama. The question of what will work is not measured in terms of a day, a conference, a trip, a meeting, or a dinner. The question is whether this process – this attempt to reach understandings on all the unresolved issues between the Palestinians and us – will work.

Twice the Israeli government strategically decided that stagnation, waiting, and inaction do not serve Israel’s interests. Even after adoption of the Roadmap it was decided for the first time – with the disengagement from Gaza – to take a step that did not comprise any element of an understanding or a judgment on what would happen on the other side.

We must ensure Israel’s security, by guaranteeing that all implementation will be subject to the principles set forth in the Roadmap – and not only that. Because if anyone thinks that the Roadmap alone fully meets Israel’s security needs on the day a Palestinian state is established, he has no idea what he’s talking about. The State of Israel has needs that we must raise in the dialogue with the Palestinians after the Annapolis summit. All issues must be placed on the table, and we need to demand and insist on everything we require, for many reasons including the situation today in the Palestinian Authority territories and in the entire Middle East.

It’s true that we are starting the dialogue simultaneously with the implementation of the first stage of the Roadmap. However, it’s a fact that we stipulated that there must be full implementation of the Roadmap before Israel takes the steps it will have to take to enable the creation of a Palestinian state.

To calm the worriers – up until Annapolis and at Annapolis, the idea is to start a process, and not to arrive there with understandings on the core issues of the conflict.

To sum up, at the moment we seem to be at the start of a process. We laid down the principles for the process, so that at each and every stage, besides just reaching understandings, we established the formula of a link between the understandings and their implementation – between what some of have called "the virtuality of the process" and its actualization. What will make the process work is precisely our demand to implement the principles contained in the Roadmap, as well as the security principles that will be written into the agreement.