Israel is a founding partner of the Barcelona process and we believe that it creates a forum where stereotypes can be broken down, perceptions can be changed, bridges can be built, and policies founded on cooperation and mutual benefit can be implemented.

Address by
Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
to the Eighth Euro-Mediterranean Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs
Tampere, Finland

Dear Colleagues,
Distinguished Delegates,

Allow me, at the outset, to pay tribute to our hosts the Government of Finland, and to His Excellency Mr. Erkki Tuomioja, for convening this conference.

Israel is a founding partner of the Barcelona process and we believe that it creates a forum where stereotypes can be broken down, perceptions can be changed, bridges can be built, and policies founded on cooperation and mutual benefit can be implemented.

We are committed to the success of the Barcelona process for the benefit of all the peoples of the Euro-med region. Israel supports the five-year work program, adopted at the Barcelona Summit in 2005, and looks forward to continuing its active participation in projects implemented under the Euro-Med umbrella in the political-security, economic, and social-cultural fields.

Dear Colleagues,

The Barcelona process is founded on the idea that dialogue and face to face interaction can break down barriers and promote peaceful relations. I believe deeply in the principle of direct dialogue in which each party recognizes the legitimacy of the other, and each can represent its own needs and its own interests in a free and open exchange.

In fact, in the Euro-Med region, we are increasingly seeing that interests are merging. There are common interests and shared objectives that can unite Israelis, moderate Palestinians, and moderates throughout the region, regardless of ethnic or religious origin.  We are all learning that this is not a zero-sum game.

The most basic common vision that can unite us is the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. We share a common interest in ensuring that the future Palestinian state is prosperous and viable, with an economy that can stand on its own. We share a common objective in ensuring that this state is not a terror state – that would be the last thing this region and its peoples need.

The Roadmap and the three principles of the international community are crucial ingredients in ensuring the emergence of a responsible and functioning Palestinian homeland that ends the conflict, not a terror state that perpetuates it. They are not obstacles for peace and statehood, but essential building blocks for them.

It is critical for the international community, and for the European Union in particular, to continue to insist that any Palestinian government fully comply with the three international principles: recognition of Israel, renunciation of terrorism, and acceptance of existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

This is the only way to strengthen the hand of the moderates and create conditions in which a process can be advanced with a Palestinian partner that believes in resolving political disputes rather than transforming them into an endless religious confrontation.

In recent days there has been cause for cautious optimism. A cease-fire has been agreed, and Prime Minister Olmert – in an important and historic address yesterday – laid out a vision and a political horizon that can be reached if the right choices are made. We hope, too, that a Palestinian government will emerge that is truly committed to an end of terrorism and the two-state vision.

Israel does not believe in stagnation and is not making excuses. We are ready to work with all those in the region who share this vision and these values to build a better region for us all.

It will not be easy. There are forces operating in the region who oppose Israeli-Palestinian peace as a matter of principle. For them, extremism is not a tactic, it is an ideology. Iran and its proxies will continue to pursue a radical ideological agenda that promises only instability and insecurity throughout the region.

And here, too, we have a common interest. To promote peace it is no less important for all moderates, especially those gathered here, to join together and stand up against its enemies.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the mother of all conflicts – it is the child of hatred. The voices of those in the region who believe in true coexistence need to be clearer and louder – their actions must be bolder and more decisive – so that the noise, destruction, and despair created by this hatred can finally fade away and the space for true peace be created.

Dear Colleagues,

Israel’s place in the Barcelona process is a natural one. We are a country that has successfully absorbed peoples of both European and Middle East cultures. This diversity of cultures and identities has merged together to create a single society, while preserving the unique identities and traditions of different communities.

I believe this can be a model for the Euro-Med region as a whole. A rich tapestry of different cultures and identities, that are proud of the qualities that make them unique, but have joined together to advance common interests and common values for the mutual benefit of all. Let us continue to work together to achieve that noble objective.

Thank you.