Israel is fighting to eliminate the threat posed by the axis of terror and hate: Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria and Iran.

 Joint press conference by FM Tzipi Livni and EU Envoy Javier Solana


FM Livni and EU envoy Solana hold joint press conference at Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (Flash 90)

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: I would like to welcome Mr. Solana and thank him for his efforts to promote stability in the Middle East. Javier does not only act as an international leader but also as a person who deeply cares and understands the complexity of the challenges facing this region.

Israel is fighting to protect its citizens. Israel is fighting to eliminate the threat posed by the axis of terror and hate: Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria and Iran.

Specifically, Israel is fighting to end the control of the Hizbullah over the lives of both Lebanese and Israelis and to bring an end to its attempts to destabilize the region.

Israel and the international community have a common goal, to promote a process that will bring about a long-term and fundamental change in the political reality in the region, and that will eliminate the threat of terrorism facing both Israelis and Lebanese.

Israel intends to work with the international community, based on the principles outlined in the statement issued by the G-8 on July 16th:

– The release of Israel’s kidnapped soldiers in Gaza and Lebanon
– An end to the shelling of Israel’s territory from Gaza and Lebanon
– The immediate implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1559, including the deployment of Lebanon’s military in its entire national territory, the dismantling of Hizbullah and the prevention of its rearmament. 

It is in our mutual interest to ensure a safe future to the peoples of the region. 

Those elements were reiterated in the statement issued by the EU on July 17th, and we appreciate stance on this issue. 

We demand, again, the immediate and unconditional release of the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Thank you.

EU Envoy Javier Solana: Thank you very much, for your hospitality today and thank you very much for the frank conversation that we have had today.

As you know, I am in the Middle East for the second time in three days; I had to go back to Europe the day before yesterday and I am here today and I will be here today and I will be here tomorrow, and I will be hear the day after tomorrow – with the aim to try and to cooperate and to see if the situation that is living in the Middle East today can be helped and to be cooperated to be stopped.

Probably, this is one of the most difficult moments which the Middle East is going through. I have seen the suffering of so many people and I see the suffering of the families here, in Israel – the suffering of the families of the soldiers who have been kidnapped.

I would like to make an appeal to all the friends that we have here in the region and particularly here, today, in Israel to my friends in Israel and I have always been a friend of Israel, whenever I come here, I come with that spirit: the spirit of cooperation and the spirit to solving problems which is the obligation of any political figure here now, at this particular moment.

I would like to say very clearly and loudly, that we have condemned the kidnapping of the soldiers. There is no reason to do that, itt is something absolutely unacceptable. And I would like to say this as loudly as possible, as clearly as possible and I would like to say, also very clearly, that those, who exist, who may have influence to help to solve this problem, they have to do it soon, immediately, now. Every day counts. And therefore, I appeal once again, to those people who may have influence of this problem, to solve it.

Now, the third thing that I would like to say is that the objective that we all have is that once this bloodshed is over, and we would like very much that this bloodshed should stop,as soon as possible, immediately to have a vision for the future. Therefore, whatever is done during this particular period of time, it has to be thought, also, in terms of what may happen in the future, when the situation is better and is over.

Therefore, even for you to have the right of self defense, I think that proportionality is a good expression to use, and respect for the lives of the individuals who have nothing to do with it, the civilians, Wwe have to try not only to gain physically, their health, but to also try to win their minds and their hearts. The battle against terrorism is not a battle which is very far from the battles about minds and about hearts, and therefore to act in that direction, to always have in mind that directions, I think is a good manner of acting.

Now, let me also say that, as the minister has said, we support completely the G-8 statement. We are not very far from having participated very actively in the writing of that document. I think that document is a good document and if it is taken seriously and implemented it can give some possibility to the ending of the bloodshed in this moment.

That document has elements which are directed to the crisis between with Lebanon and Israel, and it also has elements devoted to the Palestinian situation. We have to read completely this document. We have talked a lot about the Lebanon situation and we have to also talk about the Palestinian situation. Therefore, the two elements in this statement have to be analyzed and compiled, by the people who have the responsibilities in government, in the Palestinian government, and also the withdrawal of the Israel forces from Gaza, to really make reality what has been a real dream of the leaders of Israel to really withdraw from Gaza completely, and to see that the conditions are right so that the forces can withdraw – the sooner the better.

I would like to say just to finish that we in the international community, and myself, will try to continue working with all the friends of the region and, as I have said before, to stop the sooner the better the bloodshed which is taking place right now, and the suffering which is taking place now. We will continue to work and we will continue to cooperate in order to look also further down the road, to see whether together, we can work to find a comprehensive solution to the many problems in the Middle East still has.

Thank you very much Tzipi, once again, for your hospitality and for the good conversations that we have had.

FM Livni (in response to question): I would like to answer this question, about proportionality.

I heard the calls sometimes blaming Israel for disproportionate action. It is important to understand that the proportionately of an action is not  it is against the threat, and it is not an answer to a concrete situation on the ground. The fact is that Israel was targeted from Lebanon, the attack was an unprovoked attack on Israel. but the answer that we are giving is to give an answer to the threat. And Hizbullah and Hasan Nasrallah are threats to the region, not only to Israel. Israel has no conflict with Lebanon. Hizbullah opens a front with Israel to the Iranians, not to Lebanon. Hizbullah and Nasrallah want to take an extreme position on the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. So what we are doing now is an answer to the threat, and not an answer to an incident. This is the real way that I believe that the international community should look into the situation.

As I said before, there is an understanding between Israel and the international community and the Lebanese government. I believe that we share the same goals, and it is not only a matter of belief – this is part of United Nations  Resolution 1559: the need to disarm Hizbullah; the need to deploy the Lebanon army to the southern part of Lebanon; the need to prevent the re-armament of the Hezbollah in the future. So basically we share the same goals, we understand what is the threat, and there is an understanding that the Hizbullah is a threat to the region and not only a part of the relationship between Israel and Lebanon. And we have to think it that it is our responsibility and to think not only of the day after the military ends its operation but the need to find a way to live, not only the day after, but the days and the period of time after the military operation will be ended.

So, we know that we share the same goals, we know what the targets are, we know what directions to take but it is much more difficult to implement these ideas into deeds. The Lebanese government says that it is too weak to deploy their army, so we have to work right now, with the international community – and this is the Israeli intention, to work closely with the international community – in order to find the way that the day the army ends the operation we know what are the steps that have to be taken for a better future to the region.

Solana: Proportionality is not a mathematical concept. It is not, as you say, this particular act is proportional and this is proportional; it is not a mathematical issue. It is very important for the perception of the people. That is it the important thing. And I think too, that you have to be considerate of when you define something which is disproportionate – if the people consider this to be disproportionate because it inflicts more suffering on the people and that is necessary in order to obtain an objective; that is number one. And number two, I think that it is important, also because you have to think about the day after. The minister has talked about that.

I think that we are in a battle against terrorism which is a battle which is about hearts and minds of people, and therefore we have to conduct it in such a manner that the hearts and minds of the people are not separated from what we would like them to be. The center of gravity of people that behave in a matter which has nothing to do with the terrorism. That is what we would like. So, in that sense I think the word is proportional is appropriate.

I have been in Lebanon, I have spent a night in Lebanon and I see the suffering of the people. And I do not see what that has to do with the battle against Hizbullah. The battle against Hizbullah is important. Another thing is to weaken a country. I would like to remind you of the situation in Lebanon, the government in Lebanon, and the prime minister of Lebanon Fuad Siniora. He was elected in an election which was very much applauded by the international community and also in Israel, and he came after a terrible killing of a prime minister, and we cannot forget that, the killing of Mr. Hariri. Now, everything that we can do, in order to remember the memory of Mr. Hariri, who was actually killed in an act of terrorism, and Mr. Siniora is the successor  who wants to maintain the banner that Mr. Hariri defended. I think whatever we do to weaken that, is something that is not appropriate, it is something which is not proportional in the sense that I mentioned before. But again, the word proportional is qualified already in the minds of everybody and it has a significance some times in the minds of people, and is not necessarily correct. But in this case, I want to be very clear; that this is my sentiment, my personal sentiment and it is the sentiment of many European citizens. I mean, this is said in the understanding and friendship with the government of Israel and with the people who suffer in Israel.

FM Livni: I would like also to add something, also on a personal basis, as an Israeli minister. I would like to share with you some of the decisions that we have to take, as cabinet ministers. We have some information, for example, about a place in which Hizbullah is hiding missiles. Now, these places are sometimes,  maybe most of the times, places in which people are living, in apartments. In doing nothing, we are putting our citizens in danger, because the Hizbullah is targeting Israeli civilians. These are its goals.

So, in order to prevent casualties, civilian causalities, we call on the citizens in Lebanon to leave the place and only then do we target the place. It is very complicated, but I can assure you that part of our values and part of the government policy is to try and avoid civilian casualties, but we have the responsibilities for the lives of our Israeli citizens and we have to take the necessary steps against Hizbullah, as a terrorist organization and who would like to demolish the State of Israel, and kill and to target its citizens.

Q: Mr. Solana, do you support the Israeli demand which is based upon the G-8 statement which means first release of the Israeli soldiers kept by the Hizbullah and then proceeding to any diplomatic solution?

Solana: I think that the priority of releasing the soldiers is a must, and we have said this many, many times. But that does not prevent what we are doing already. What we are doing already today, here, yesterday in Lebanon, and tomorrow in New York, is diplomacy. And I think that this is not incompatible, one with the other.