One day before the meeting of the Quartet, Livni and Solana discussed Iran, and the EU’s role in Israeli-Palestinian issues and Israeli-EU relations.
Joint Press Conference by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana
FM Livni: I would like to welcome a friend, Javier Solana, to the region, again, at a time which is important, I believe, to the region, to the Israeli-Palestinian process and, of course, to the Iranian issue. These are all topics that we discussed in our conversation – and, of course, the Israeli-European Union relationship.
When it comes to the Iranian issue, I would like to reiterate our understanding of the need to enhance the sanctions in the Security Council. We believe that the Iranians are trying to gain more time in talking with the international community. Mr. Solana will also, I am sure, relate to his meetings with Larijani [secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Council]. In fact, we believe that the determination of the international community can effect a change and that it means something to the Iranians; the world cannot afford a nuclear Iran.
So, this is a joint effort of the international community. The need to get everyone on board in the Security Council led sometimes in the past to some compromises regarding the nature of the sanctions, but it is not too late and we have not passed the point of no return. There is no such point. We would like to see determination on the part of the international community on this, and we shared our ideas.
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and process, we are a day after the meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as part of an ongoing process and meetings between the two leaders. After the formation of the new Palestinian government, we believe that there are chances for a change. Israel is willing to work, and in fact Israel is working with the new government, with the understanding that they represent, basically, the moderates in the Palestinian Authority.
This is a government that met the requirements of the Quartet and the international community and, in a way, it represents the interests of the Palestinians in terms of their national aspiration. We decided that it is part of the Israeli government policy to work with this government and to help them to deliver to the Palestinians a better life. I hope that we will know, together, how to use this point in time in order to create a better future for Israelis and Palestinians as well.
Javier Solana: Very briefly, I want to say that, as you know, as a member of the Quartet – tomorrow there is going to be a Quartet meeting, and I wanted to visit Israel and to visit with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians to see how they see the important moments in which we are living nowadays.
You have to put that also in the context of the important speech [by US President Bush] that was delivered not long ago – a few days ago – and in which a lot of initiative was placed. We want to see how we can discuss with our friends the Israelis and also with the Palestinians how to get into this initiative. The [Quartet] meeting, again, will take place tomorrow. I wanted to have personal information from the leaders of Israel and Palestine, so that tomorrow I will be able to explain to the other members of the Quartet what the situation is from the point of view of the leaders here.
So, that is the main aim of the trip. As you know, I come here regularly. I have very good friends in Israel, I am a friend of Israel, and I have also good relations with the Palestinians, and we want to see if we can put forward, to take advantage of this new situation, across the Middle East, which is a dream of so many people in the region.
Q: Foreign Minister Livni, following the State Comptroller’s report, do you think the Prime Minister should resign due to the serious findings regarding the home front’s readiness for war?
And Mr. Solana: Are you or will the European Union take part in the international conference that President Bush declared a few days ago? Are you going to be part of it?
Q: I wanted to ask you both if you don’t believe that this is the right moment to begin negotiations on the final status issues.
And, to Mr. Solana, if I might add, the European Union does support the deployment of an international force in Gaza and would the European Union send forces to this international force?
Q: Dr. Solana, President Abbas said this afternoon that he expects the PLO central council to issue a call for early elections and that, if that happens, he will issue the decree ordering those elections. Does the international community support the idea of early Palestinian elections? Is that something you would regard as viable at this point?
Javier Solana: OK, I have three questions that were addressed to me. On the international meeting, you know that this is something that the Quartet has been defending for a long time, and no doubt we will be present there.
Now, the second thing is about an international force. I think that this is something that has been around for some time, and some ideas have been suggested, but nothing has materialized yet, so I don’t think that this is the moment to make a formal decision, a formal statement on that. We will have to see how the situation evolves and what is the possibility of something like that. That will have to be decided in New York – the United Nations will have to say a word about that. But, as far as talking to the parties, I don’t see for the moment a tremendous anxiety for that.
And the third question, on the elections. I really have not spoken with President Abbas on the elections, although he has said that in a press conference with me, because the question was posed to him. What we think is that this government is a legitimate government and is the only legitimate government that we should support, and whatever they decide to do, and to move forward, we do not have to interfere; they will have the responsibility to do it.
But I don’t think that this is something for [the Quartet’s discussions] tomorrow, as you can imagine.
FM Livni: To your question about the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians – basically, of course, Israel wants to live in peace with the Palestinians. We adopted the vision of the two-state solution, with the understanding that the ideal is for two states, two different homelands for two different peoples. We would like to be in a situation in which we can reach an agreement with the Palestinians.
Unfortunately, sometimes vision is not enough and it is important to translate it into a way which represents not only the willingness of Israel and maybe the moderates of the Palestinians, but also the ability to do so.
I believe that part of the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians should be on things which are needed in order to send the message to the Palestinians that this government can deliver on a daily basis – when it comes to the release of prisoners, or to giving the money to the new government… This is something that we do in order to strengthen this government, in its need to deliver to the Palestinians and to ease the life of the Palestinians.
When it comes to the political process, there are several sensitive issues, and in the past we learned that in opening with the most sensitive issues, the result for Israel was years of intifada, because of the frustration of the lack of ability to reach a full agreement and to end the conflict.
I hope that we can end it, and I think that what we need to do is to find the wider, the broader common denominator between Israel and the Palestinians. This is something that is a part of the dialogue, and I hope that now, when there is a government that has met the requirements of the international community to accept the right of Israel to exist and accept also the former agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, this can be a basis to find the wider, the broader common denominator. I do not want to relate to final status now…
For example, one of the basic issues for Israel is two states, two different homelands. The meaning is that the Palestinian state is the answer, the national answer, to the Palestinians, including the refugees, and this is the basic understanding. It is a part of the final status issues, but it is also a part of the vision.
There are certain needs for Israel’s security, and I am sure that, on the Palestinian side, they will put on the table things which are in their interest and their need to give a political horizon to their own people and the hope that the Palestinian state is not only a vague vision, but something which is more concrete.
In answer to your question, although I did receive the [State Comptroller’s] report, I haven’t had time to read the findings yet. However, I would like to say, simply and clearly, that the government’s job is to rectify the findings revealed in the report. This process has already begun, and the government has decided to appoint the Ministry of Defense as the party responsible for all the shortcomings in the home front. I think that this is what needs to be done. Some things have already started to be implemented but, naturally, all the findings in the report need to be addressed in an orderly manner.
Something else should also be understood in the context of the home front and the front line. Something has changed regarding the threats facing Israel, so the correction here is quite significant. If, in the past, we were used to relating to the front line and the home front separately, the new threats that Israel is facing, whether threats of terror or of rockets, in fact blur the distinction between the front line and the home front, so that is what we have to prepare for. That is the job of this government and that is what is being done.