The policy of the Israeli government is to actively promote this vision of dividing the land between us, for two national states.

 Remarks by FM Livni to the WEF Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh


Israeli FM Tzipi Livni met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, May 21, 2006. (Photo: Reuters)

Remarks by
Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni
to the World Economic Forum Middle East Summit
Sharm el-Sheikh

Your Royal Highnesses,
Distinguished friends,

The World Economic Forum summit, at the present time and with the present company of important leaders, is a special event. The Middle East seems to present us with great challenges, maybe more than ever.

History has brought upon us a situation in which two peoples are intertwined, living together on the same piece of land, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Each people with its own sense of history and justice. A backward-looking debate of the historic rights of each people will not advance the cause for which I have arrived here today – the cause of peace.

I do not believe it is a zero-sum game. Palestinian interests do not necessarily contradict Israeli interests and vice-versa. Israeli happiness does not necessarily mean Palestinian sadness. There are principles that support the interests of both sides, that would benefit both peoples, like the vision of a two-state solution.

The policy of the Israeli government is to actively promote this vision of dividing the land between us, for two national states. A two state solution is not only a slogan. It is a concept of two national states in a full and real manner.

One of them is the State of Israel, the national home for all Jews, wherever they may be, and as such it has given, by definition, a full and complete solution to the Jewish people, including all Jewish refugees. Similarly, the future state of Palestine will, by its mere establishment, give a national solution to all Palestinians, wherever they may be. Those living in the West Bank as well as the refugees who live outside it. The establishment of a Palestinian state is the only just solution to this problem.

Two states living side by side in peace and security.

The implication is clear: full dismantlement of all terrorist infrastructures. Terrorism cannot be given legitimacy. Cessation of Incitement against Israel and Jews is crucial not only as an Israeli interest. It is the interest of any society. What kind of future is given to children when they are being raised on values of hate, when their aspiration is to kill and to commit suicide? What kind of hope do we have for a historical reconciliation between future generations?

I know that life on the Palestinian side is not easy. It is our duty, as leaders, to educate our children for tolerance and coexistence, although it may not always be a popular message for those looking for revenge. This is the message we send our people after terror bombings, and during funerals in which we participate.

What is the best way to implement this vision?

The Road Map to peace was presented by the international community and adopted as a principle by both sides. It was understood that the best way to move forward is by making gradual steps. All while maintaining each side’s interests, especially in light of the experience at the Camp David summit in  2000, which led to more violence rather than to a solution.
The Road Map gives the Palestinians a political horizon – that of a future Palestinian state. On the other hand, such a state must not be allowed to threaten Israel’s existence. That is why the Palestinians were required, in the first phase of the Road Map, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructures.

Once this basic requirement is fulfilled, the Road Map foresees the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders. During this interim period, mutual trust can be reestablished and we will be able to advance towards the end of the conflict.

The first phase of the Road Map was never fulfilled by the Palestinians. Israel could have chosen to simply wait, and blame the Palestinians for this stagnation. But stalemate is not the Israeli policy. We are not looking for excuses not to move forward, and I believe that time works against those who support a two-state solution.

That is why Israel came up with the disengagement plan. We dismantled Israeli settlements and villages and pulled our troops out of the Gaza Strip, although we were supposed to discuss this possibility only in the last phase of the Road Map. We took a risk in order to send a message to the Palestinians. We mean business, we do not want to control your life. But you must take responsibility over all areas from which we withdraw so that you may establish your own viable state. Israel is no longer your excuse for not taking the necessary steps to halt violence.

We hoped that we were opening a window of opportunity for peace. But the window was quickly shut as the Palestinian elections brought a terror organization to power, taking over parliament and the government.

Israel’s policy in this respect was made clear, along with that of the international community. Elections cannot serve to legitimize a terror organization, and when that organization takes over the leadership, it deligitimizes the Palestinian government. At the same time, we said that our policy is not to punish the Palestinian people. It must be given all necessary aid without giving legitimacy to the Hamas government. The implementation is not simple. The basic principles must, however, be upheld.

Israel is using part of the tax money withheld by us in order to finance Palestinian electricity, water and medical services. This morning our government approved the transfer of anther 50 million dollars for this aim. But for example, financing salaries for Palestinian school teachers supports Hamas education that nobody can afford – Palestinians, Israelis or the international community.

The demands from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority are clear. Only the full and uncompromising fulfillment of these demands can reopen the window of opportunity. The use of violence and terrorism does not carry with it any political benefits. The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority is trying to push us back to 1947. But in order to advance the historic process of reconciliation, we must not go backwards. Israel’s existence as our national home must be recognized, all previous agreements must be respected. These agreements are the fruit of long and hard negotiations and no side may pick and choose only those elements they wish to uphold. Past agreements may not be replaced by alternative initiatives to which Israel is not a part.

The lack of a partner is not an Israeli excuse designed to stall the process. It is a sad reality. A partner must fulfill two conditions. A desire to end the conflict on the basis of our shared vision. And the ability to lead his people towards agreements and their implementation, including dismantling terror organizations.

Unilateralism is not an ideology of the Israeli government. Negotiated agreements are always preferable, they are the best way to resolve our differences. But we cannot afford to give the Palestinian extremist leaders the right of veto over peace.

Israel is willing to take more steps that will include dismantling more settlements and will lead to a Palestinian state. This is a difficult decision, like the decisions expected of the Palestinians, regarding people who lost their homes sixty years ago. Regardless of the debate over whether our settlers should have lived there in the first place, some of them were born in those homes.

Our plan does not envision only Israeli interests. It is a vision for both peoples, and I hope that you will comprehend this and cooperate with us. But Israel’s willingness to take steps and to assume risks is only on condition that vital interests regarding our security and future existence are safeguarded. Our ability to make concessions will always be linked to our obligation to provide security to our citizens. The correlation is clear.

Do not limit yourselves to prejudging an initiative merely because of its title of unilateralism. The ideas promoted by Israel are designed to advance a solution for both peoples. Even the security fence, with which you do not agree, was built for security reasons, but it advances the principle of a separation into two states.

Do not reject a plan that could help the creation of a Palestinian state, just because of a future discussion over that state’s final borders. Peace means achieving one dream while abandoning parts of other dreams. An initiative along those lines could be the jewel in the crown of the present leadership, a legacy for both peoples.

And so, for the benefit of our future generations, I urge you to listen to the voice of the new Israeli government. We are willing to advance the two-state solution in an imaginative manner.

Peace means making hard and painful concessions inside our own society. Those concessions and our inner debate are the test of true leadership.

We cannot turn back the wheels of history. We cannot bring back the dead, heal all the wounds or return people to places they have left. But we must make every effort to influence the future of our people.