The same extreme ideology and manipulation of religion that was behind the horrific attacks on the twin towers in New York, also threatens to spoil the peace that Israel, the United States, and many moderates throughout the region, so much desire.

 FM Livni  addresses a special session of the Massachusetts House of Representatives

 

Archive photo: Flash 90

(Communicated by Foreign Minister’s Bureau)

Address by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to a special session of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
12 March 2008

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your warm introduction, and even more for your generous invitation to come to this House, and to address the members of this extraordinary Legislature.

This year we celebrate Israel’s sixtieth anniversary, and it is a particular honor for me to mark this important event in this historic chamber, where principles of democracy, freedom and justice play such an important role, and have such a widespread impact.

On the same day Israel was born, we stated in the declaration of independence: "We extend our hands to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The state of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East." These words represent our values, our hopes and our aspirations.

As we chose the path of peace, so we embraced the principles of democracy as our moral compass. I am proud to represent here today, the State of Israel, its values and its achievements.

I know that sometimes, from a distance, there is a gap between the image of Israel and the reality of Israel. I hope that my visit to Boston, will contribute to the understanding of the real Israel and the complex reality that we face.

Mr. Speaker,

Our two nations have so much in common. We share the same commitment for democracy, for pluralism and for tolerance. We share a common devotion to humanity, and to respecting diversity. The commonwealth and Israel have in common our leadership roles in the life sciences, in health care, and in technology.

Like the Pilgrims who traveled here on the deck of the Mayflower, so were the pioneers who came in ships from Europe and other nations to re-establish the Jewish state in the land of Israel. Those pioneers courageously fulfilled the Jewish people’s dream of returning to their homeland after thousands of years in exile.

And now, in the 21st century, we both have become important centers of innovation and creativity. Indeed, we have become natural partners in research and development, in clean and renewable energy, and in a wide range of technologies.

We are pleased with the initiative of this Legislature in promoting joint research opportunities and ongoing scientific exchanges between the commonwealth and Israel, and we are grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your leadership in this regard.

Part of the common bond that joins our two peoples is that we both long for peace. The desire for peace lies at the core of the Jewish tradition, and of our national aspiration. I can assure you that it is the main goal of the Government of Israel, and it is my personal mission as the Foreign Minister of that government and the chief negotiator with the Palestinians, to find a way, somehow, to make that peace a reality.

Painfully, our two nations have also shared the anguish of seeing terror’s cruel effects up close and first hand. Many Americans lost family members and friends in the brutal terrorist attack launched against the United States on September 11th. We understand and share the shock, the anger and the grief. In Israel, not a single day goes by without attacks against our civilians. Only last week, eight teenagers who were studying Talmud, were murdered in the heart of Jerusalem.

The same extreme ideology and manipulation of religion that was behind the horrific attacks on the twin towers in New York, also threatens to spoil the peace that Israel, the United States, and many moderates throughout the region, so much desire.

Understanding the nature of the threats we face, is the first step in overcoming them. We should realize that the major players in today’s terror arena are no longer small, un-organized militias. 

Today we see very structured organizations like Hamas, Hizbullah, and Islamic Jihad, who enjoy the support – in the form of finance, training and equipment – of Iran. These organizations are more than terrorist organizations – they have an extreme religious ideology that they want to spread. These extremists exploit our very own values to promote an agenda of hate. They do not fight for any legitimate right, but to deprive others of their rights.

It is a challenge to all of us, members of the free world. It is about defending our own values. Together with concrete steps that need to be taken, we should present a clear voice of moral standing.

The phrase "One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter" is wrong. I believe that terrorism is terrorism is terrorism, and who ever goes intentionally after women and children, is certainly not a freedom fighter. Hamas terrorists deliberately target kindergartens, hospitals and civilians. They use the most inhuman, vicious methods – sending suicide bombers to our schools and shopping malls, and firing dozens of missiles each day into our cities.

The fight against terrorism puts us, both soldiers and decision-makers, in some very complicated dilemmas every day, but first and foremost, it is our responsibility to defend our citizens.

I want to make it absolutely clear; we don’t want to punish innocent people. The death of a child – any child, Palestinian or Israeli – is a terrible loss. But there should be a moral distinction between those who conduct suicide missions deliberately against women and children and those who do their best to avoid hurting the innocent, even if sometimes it happens in the midst of the battle. There should be a distinction as well between those who glorify death, Jihad and martyrdom, on one hand, and those who cherish life and humanity, on the other.

While we cannot ignore the terrorism and extremism around us, I believe that we can never abandon the hope for peace. This is our basic obligation to our children and to the people of Israel. We are determined to continue our quest to reach peace with those on the Palestinian side who are committed to dialogue and coexistence and who has embraced – as we have – the vision of two states for two peoples. We are eager to explore opportunities for peace with those who have decided to renounce terror and violence, and truly represent a national aspiration and not an agenda of hatred.

Those who think that the conflict is driven by an Israeli desire to hold onto territories – are totally wrong. This may be a perception that some seek to promote, but it is not the reality. The people of Israel came to terms with the need to compromise for peace. Our aspiration as a nation is to realize its values as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace with its neighbors.

Controlling another people is not our desire, our interest or our policy. On the contrary: We want the Palestinian people to have a viable, secure and prosperous existence in a state of their own. This is not just a Palestinian aspiration – it is an Israeli interest, as long as it doesn’t put Israel in danger. 

Several times in our short history, we have withdrawn from territories to give a chance for peace. At great pain and great risk, we uprooted families from Gaza in the hope of a new beginning, though unfortunately we received terror in return.
And today, despite all the risks, we remain ready for the historical reconciliation which is based on compromises by both sides. We need to know that our partners are ready for compromises as well. And we need to know that just as a Palestinian state is an Israeli interest, so Israeli security is a Palestinian interest.

Israel made a strategic decision to negotiate with the pragmatic Palestinians for peace. It is not easy to do so under terror that leads people to loss of faith in the process.

Mr. Speaker,

President John F. Kennedy, who was born not far from here, once said, and I quote: "Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures."

For me the true meaning of the peace process is not to have a final decision or judgment between the two historical narratives. It is rather about building a common ground for the future, and reaching an understanding based on the mutual willingness to compromise and to give up on some of both sides’ dreams.

Two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security is not a vague slogan, but a real necessity for the stability in the entire region. Each state should provide the solution to the national aspiration of its people: Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people, and the creation of a Palestinian state as a fulfillment of their national desire.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are many who would like to see the flames of fire in the Middle East grow higher. When the Iranian regime denies the Holocaust, calls for a destruction of a fellow state, supports terror and violence – while pursuing a nuclear weapon – it must be stopped.

The truth is – no matter how much all of us may want peace and no matter how much we may be willing to sacrifice for it – we will not achieve peace unless we also have the courage to confront its enemies.

There are still many tools in the tool box that the international community has at its disposal. But the clock is ticking. The United Nations and the international community at large have recognized that economic sanctions on Iran, especially on Iran’s energy sector, are the best means to persuade Iran to change its dangerous course.

We must increase the pressure on the Iranian leadership now, if we want to avoid difficult dilemmas in the future. And each and every one of us has the responsibility and the capability to do something.

Mr. Speaker and dear friends:

Sixty years after fulfilling our dream of creating a national homeland for the Jewish people, we take pride and satisfaction at what we have accomplished. Israel is a beautiful place to live in. A gathering of different ethnic groups which came from the four corners of the world to create a wonderful human mosaic. It is a tiny place, with no natural resources whatsoever, that has become, thanks to its human capital – a flourishing state which assist and support many developing countries around the globe.

At the same time, we know that our journey is far from complete. Nothing is more fundamental to our success than to live in peace with our neighbors.

We are grateful to you for your role in our achievements and for our work together as innovators and defenders of our common values. Your friendship means more to every Israeli than you can imagine. In the name of the State and the people of Israel – thank you and shalom.