This annual Independence Day gathering is an expression of the close relations Israel enjoys with the international community, and your support for our unique democracy.

Greetings by Tzipi Livni, Minister of Foreign Affairs
to the Diplomatic Corps
on the occasion of Israel’s 58th Independence Day
Bet Hanasi, Jerusalem, 3 May ‏2006

Your Excellency President Katsav and Mrs Katsav,
Excellencies and members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Eminent Heads of Churches and Religious communities,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to join the diplomatic community in Israel, in celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. This annual gathering is an expression of the close and friendly relations Israel enjoys with the international community, and your support for our unique democracy. I wish to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for your contribution to these ties and to Israel’s ever-growing interaction and partnership with the international community.

Israel is celebrating today the 58th anniversary of its independence, but sadly the celebrations are not complete.  Israel is still struggling for its very existence – under different conditions than 58 years ago, but the battle continues. This struggle is also a struggle for legitimacy, not only because Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East, but because it is the homeland of the Jewish people.

Among the celebrations and the good wishes of the nations of the world, other voices are being heard, voices which take us back to a previous generation. Then, the target was the Jewish people. Today, it is both the Jewish people – anti-Semitism is rearing its ugly head across the globe – and the State of Israel, a member of the family of nations which shares the values of the entire free world.

We cannot close our ears to the voices coming from Iran, and we cannot stop our eyes from reading the Charter of Hamas. The history of the Jewish people teaches us that the unthinkable can happen. As the leaders of Israel, we do not have the luxury to ignore or dismiss these threats. The international community bears the responsibility to act as well. It is the very character of our international system which is at stake.

It is true – thankfully- that Israel has the ability to use its military power, but this power will always have limits upon it, because of our values – which are the real source of our strength, as individuals, as leaders and as a people. It is these values which guide us in seeking to live in peace in our democratic state, the homeland of the Jewish people, here in the Land of Israel, the land of our forefathers. Values which we draw from our Jewish heritage, values which are shared by the entire free world.

The past year has been a difficult one for Israel. We implemented the Disengagement Plan, in order to open a window of opportunity for peace. The plan challenged Israel’s society, its strength and solidarity, and left wounds which remain open; we lost Prime Minister Sharon to illness; and we saw the rise of Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority.

The new Israeli government – in which I have the great honor to serve as Foreign Minister – was elected with a mandate to carry Israel forward to the day when we can secure our permanent borders and ensure the democratic and Jewish identity of our State. We face many challenges as we seek to fulfill these goals, and to carry us towards realizing our people’s aspirations for peace.

The international community has a key role to play in the effort to bring our region to a place where every people can live its life in its own state. I call on all the members of the international community to help in achieving this goal. I call on you – not only for the sake of Israel but also for the sake of the Palestinian people and of peace itself – to maintain the pressure on those who represent hatred and extreme Islamic positions, who refuse to recognize fundamental human values and Israel’s right to exist, and who seek to take our region back in time to a darker period.

In my view, this is not a zero-sum situation. Helping Israel does not mean harming the Palestinians. On the contrary. Precisely because Israel is committed to the two-state solution, and precisely because of the negative developments on the Palestinian side, the Government of Israel must think creatively, and we must come up with new ideas which can bring us to our shared goal – two national states living side by side in peace.

Finally, as the incoming Foreign Minister, let me also add that I look forward to working together with you all to promote Israel’s relations with each and every member of the international community. The rich tapestry of these relations brings real benefits to our peoples and helps us all promote those values of peace and cooperation which lie at the heart of our global society.

Today, as we celebrate Israel’s independence, it is a great pleasure also to celebrate with you Israel’s proud place within the community of nations.

Hag Atzmaut Sameah!