FM Livni: I believe that Israel can become everything it intended to become when it was established.
Address by Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni at the closing plenary session of he Israeli Presidential Conference: Israeli Leaders Discussing Tomorrow
Jerusalem, 15 May 2008
Honored guests, President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres,
I would like to thank you on behalf of all of us for this amazing conference which I believe you decided to convene immediately after you were elected president of the State of Israel. You announced that this is what you would do and I am happy to say that this week I had a lot of work, which I performed gladly, meeting with all the leaders who came from all over the world to share in Israel’s happiness, the happiness of celebrating 60 years of our independence. We deserve it. Honored guests and friends, chairman of the Jewish Agency, Zeevik Bielski, and of course, my partners alphabetically, Ehud Barak, Eli Yishai and Binyamin Netanyahu.
Every person needs a dream, some backbone and a moral compass to guide him. Every state needs a dream, a purpose and a moral compass that unites the nation and guides its leaders. When we gather to think about tomorrow or when we act to shape the future, it is important to say that in order to shape tomorrow we need a clear goal which must be kept in mind with every decision, and we must also tell ourselves that we must pay heed to the existing situation and, when necessary, to amend it in order to formulate a better tomorrow.
We are celebrating 60 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, which, on the one hand, is the fulfillment of a dream going back thousands of years and, on the other hand, is a new beginning because I believe that the dream did not end with the establishment of the State of Israel, and Zionism did not end with the establishment of the State of Israel, but rather that we must take the values, we must take this dream, and they are the things that must continue to accompany us.
It is true that since the establishment of the State, Israel still has to fight for its existence. Unity that arises around common threats is important but is not sufficient. It is true that we are also fighting for the physical existence of the State of Israel, but alongside the physical battle we also need the spiritual existence of values because Israel has still not been accepted by part of the world surrounding us, among other things, because of these values of ours, because it is the only truly democratic state in the Middle East and because it is the only Jewish state in the world. And these are the values which are the pillars, the cornerstones, upon which the State of Israel was built and the answer to your question, what is the significance of Israel in the international community, what is the significance of Israel in the Jewish world, what is our internal significance? That, in effect, says everything, because all of our ability to contend with the threats from outside, and these threats exist, is connected, among other things, to the awareness of every citizen in this country, who is coping with them and, unfortunately, there are citizens who find themselves on the front lines, and every citizen must know that he is not alone, that, of course, there is also a government which he believes will protect him, but that there is also a joint creation here, that we are all partners and it is not a random partnership related to the place in which he was born, but rather a profound common denominator that accompanies us, all of us, as a society, and creates the mutual social responsibility.
To me, that is Israel. That is the Israel that the world may not understand very well and we are facing an enormous gap between what we are, our values, and the image of Israel outside its borders. Of all things, the source of our strength, those values, that identification with every citizen to whom something happens, whether we know him or not, that national identification and a sense of belonging to everyone who is harmed, the sense of incompleteness, because kidnapped soldiers have not yet returned home, that is what makes Israeli society unique, and if we also succeed in bringing this outside, we believe that we can bridge the gap between the image of Israel and what we really are. Because that is the source of our strength.
The values of the State of Israel are evident, they are in writing, they are written on the Scroll of Independence. That is obvious, but what was obvious in 1948 is no longer obvious today. It is always obvious internally, it is certainly not obvious outside the borders of the State of Israel. There is a process of erosion of the legitimacy of Israel’s existence as a nation state. Just like in the battle for existence, we are less occupied with what we are internally and Israel must return to itself and its values and the supreme goal of the State of Israel, if we do not want to quote the entire Scroll of Independence, it is our existence as a democratic Jewish state and these values complement one another and do not clash – even though it is easy to bring about a clash between them – a safe state that exists in security and peace, in the Land of Israel.
This supreme purpose has ramifications for every decision. It is the writing on the wall. It has ramifications for both political decisions and for internal domestic decisions.
With regard to the political aspect, the need to fulfill the values of Israel as a democratic Jewish state leads us to one clear conclusion, that we must give up part of the Land of Israel. This decision, ladies and gentlemen, has already been made, and most of the Israeli public concurs with it and, if I may say so, I know that everyone sitting here on the podium agrees with it as well. I propose to the leadership sitting on the podium, I propose, on this occasion, when the leadership is sitting here on the stage, not to try to sharpen the differences. There can be debates and justifiably so, legitimate ones, on how to achieve the goal and that is okay, but when we already have a common denominator, let us not use the words unity and common denominator and mutual responsibility only on Independence Day, or during wars, or on Memorial Day. We can be partners in this goal and later we can discuss among ourselves the correct way to achieve it.
And ladies and gentlemen, I say this as I see the reality out there and despite the fact that Israel has accepted the decision, and the idea that its existence as a democratic Jewish state leads to recognition of the principal of two nation states, living in security and peace, the reality is harsh. The reality compels us to act cautiously and to take it into account and as the negotiator on behalf of Israel, I tell you that it is true that peace is a dream, that is the most common word in the prayers and in the language and in the poetry and literature of Israel because we truly want to attain it, but my goal is not just a piece of paper on which the word peace is written. The arrangement can be good for Israel only if it truly establishes the interests of the State of Israel and it gives genuine meaning to the words two nation states living in peace and security, taking into account, among other things, the reality on the ground. Determining a border is clearly important but it is not enough. At the same time, we must determine, in advance, what will be on the other side. We cannot allow it to be a terrorist state, a radical Islamic state, a backward state with armed militias or terrorist organizations that do as they please, and I say here to the international leadership in this room, we cannot allow that. That is not just the concern of the State of Israel. No one can allow it.
There are conditions that will have to be fulfilled and these are the things that we are now discussing, as part of the negotiations, because we cannot just throw a key to the other side of the border and hope for the best.
Two nation states, and that is not just words – they have genuine meaning, certainly for the existence of the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. The establishment of a Palestinian state is also the full and complete national solution for the Palestinians wherever they may be, including the refugees, and upon its establishment, we want to see the end of the dispute. The Palestinians can celebrate an Independence Day if, on that day, they eliminate the word Nakba from their vocabulary.
These components: borders, security, two nation states, the end of the dispute, are components that are intertwined with one another and we must cultivate and promote them all together in the negotiations, and there are several things that we cannot allow ourselves. We cannot allow ourselves to fail to bring peace, but we cannot bring an unsuccessful peace that will be another disappointment in an unending conflict. Therefore, if these agreements, which I am talking about, are written, signed and recognized, even if the implementation is postponed, they will have value in themselves.
At the same time, it is not enough to conduct this process – and I hope that we will be able to reach these agreements and to establish the interests of Israel – it is meaningless to conduct a process with one party, call it the moderates, call it the pragmatists, Fatah, if, at the same time, we do not contest what is happening with the terrorist organizations that have taken control of Gaza, organizations that do not represent any national interest, but rather extremist religious ideology that does not want to recognize any other. For some time, since the international community requested only that they recognize Israel, they have refused to do so and, in effect, Gaza is precisely the essence of everything that we cannot allow ourselves: an entity that is controlled by a radical terrorist organization from which terrorism emerges on a regular basis. Shooting, terrorism, the continual strengthening and establishment of Hamas, these are things that Israel cannot allow itself and we are doing so after the Palestinian people have been given every chance for a different reality and the dialogue can occur only with someone with some kind of common basis, a common goal at the end of the process, and there is no dialogue with Hamas, because there is no hope with Hamas, not for any other reason, and with an organization that does not recognize the existence of Israel, the quiet is also apparently temporary.
The political byproduct is one side of the decision, of the significance of our existence as a democratic Jewish state. The other side relates to our home internally, and that is no less important. The first required amendment, ladies and gentlemen, is to establish and determine these values in a constitution.
Israel is a state, and I am proud of what Israel is today, in which there are various populations, and there are Jews and Arabs and within the Jewish public there are secular people and there are religious people and there are immigrants. Israel has absorbed millions of immigrants who arrived from all over the world and today they all constitute part of Israeli society. However, the lack of a constitution that determines what a democratic Jewish state is, causes apprehension and causes fear and causes hatred and sometimes even leads to political parties that feed off these apprehensions and fears, and it is not too late to establish these principles, and we must establish the fact that the meaning of a Jewish state is certainly the Law of Return, the symbols of the State of Israel, values that do not coerce the individual, a bond with the Jews of the Diaspora, that is certainly a basic common denominator on one side of the equation, while the other side of the equation – a democratic state – is not just technical.
Ladies and gentlemen, a democracy is not just a vote for everyone, it is not just governmental stability – and here we still have a lot to do – democracy is also values. It is a series of rights and norms according to which we are obligated to act. These values are, and must be, the internal code of laws of every society, of every citizen and of every leader in the State of Israel. Democracy is based on public trust in its elected officials and in its various institutions, the Knesset, the government, the law enforcement authorities, the justice system, the criticism. Each one of these institutions and everyone they encompass, must act according to this internal code of laws, according to this compass. Here there are no camps, they must not be created, the public should not have to choose one of them, it must place its trust in all of them, because all of them are the cornerstones of the state.
In conclusion, Israel has always known how to turn in its weaknesses into its strengths. The need to absorb millions of immigrants, a task that any country would have found difficult, became Israel’s greatest economic springboard. A country without any natural resources or water became an expert in agriculture, in water utilization, and we are sharing all this knowledge with the world. A country that is threatened militarily made its army into the best in the world and its defense industries into the most sophisticated of them all. The need to contend with problems on an immediate basis led to raising creativity and ventures. And here I would like to say something about the future, because the disadvantage of a small country must be an advantage – with such a small physical distance between the center and what is perceived not to be the center, it is inconceivable that such a small distance should become a gap in education, in rights, and in quality of life.
In summary, I believe that Israel can become everything it intended to become when it was established, and it can be an Israel in which the word Judaism is not connected with political debate, but rather with the history and culture of a nation that returned to its land and to the connection that binds us, the nation that dwells in Zion and the Jewish people that dwells in various diasporas. In the Land of Israel, the words spoken in Hebrew today by the president of the United States, it is the same country that arouses a sense of belonging and love among all its people. I believe that there can be an Israel that has a common dream and common values in which all its citizens believe, by which all its leaders act, and that is the basis for educating the next generation here. And it must be an Israel whose government views the same common goal and from which tasks and objectives can be derived and implemented and all this, ladies and gentlemen, cannot wait for tomorrow. All this must happen today.