Secy Rice’s current visit to the region focuses on the economic improvement of the lives of the Palestinian people.

 FM Livni and US Secy Rice-Statements to the press


Photo: Matty Stern, US Embassy Tel Aviv

Statements to the press by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and US US Secretary of State Rice
Jerusalem, 30 March 2008

FM LIVNI: [Welcomes US Secretary of State Rice once again to Israel.] In our meeting, we will be talking about the Annapolis process, the peace negotiations, and changes that are needed on the ground.

It’s important to say that in Annapolis, Israel and the Palestinians decided to relaunch peace negotiations based on the idea of two states living side by side in peace and security. Simultaneously, we decided to change the reality on the ground. It’s important to say that these are two different tracks. Negotiations are taking place, we are meeting with the Palestinians on a regular basis trying to reach a peace treaty that will reflect our interests, dreams and goals. Simultaneously we want to give hope to the Palestinian people and to change the reality on the ground.

In Annapolis we decided that any understanding between us and the Palestinians is subject to the implementation of the Roadmap. We also decided to work on both tracks simultaneously. So I think that we can share all the information, ideas and prospects for the future with Secretary Rice.

SECRETARY OF STATE RICE: Thank you very much for again hosting me here and I’m very much looking forward to the series of meetings that I will have. I just want to reiterate that the Annapolis project has three tracks, as you said: the Roadmap implementation, improving the situation on the ground; and, of course, the political negotiations. I believe that the sides are serious about achieving a two-state solution, serious about ending their conflict, and it is the role of the United States now to help facilitate that in any way that we can.

I also look forward to meetings later to talk about how we might make more progress on the ground.

There have been a number of meetings prior to mine on that matter. I know that Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Fayyad met a couple of days ago and I look forward to talking with them about how they see the issues. But first I’m going to have breakfast with the foreign minister, the chief negotiator, and I very much look forward to being enlightened about the progress you’re making and also what I can do to help.

Q: I have a question for both of you. Madame Secretary, for improving the situation on the ground, can you be more specific on what you expect from the Israelis?
And Madame Minister, could you tell us what you are prepared to do to improve the situation? Do you think that some checkpoints could be removed? And also on the peace process, did you reach a document or some piece of paper you are ready to share with the Secretary?

SECRETARY OF STATE RICE: On the issue of what can be done on the ground, I think there’s no secret that there’s an issue of the economic improvement of the lives of the Palestinian people, and that requires the ability to have greater movement and access. I think there are a number of ways to go about that. But as I mentioned, one of the things that we’re trying to do is become more concrete about what might be done in various areas in order to allow certain economic projects and economic progress to go forward. And so I expect to have discussions about those matters.

FM LIVNI: Basically, talking about the situation on the ground, the idea is to ease the lives of the Palestinians, as I said, to do as much as we can to improve their lives, advance and make progress with some of the economic projects that the international community is also involved in. And, as always, the formula is to do whatever we can as long as we can protect our own security interests, becauseour other responsibility is to find a way to provide security to the Israelis.

But I believe that Israel and the Palestinians both understand that the Palestinians’ economy is part of our interest and that Israel’s security is part of the Palestinian interest. So, based on this understanding, I hope to find a formula to do it in a way that can give some hope for the people and more trust in the process itself.

When it comes to your question about the paper and the timeline, basically, in Annapolis, we decided to make every effort to reach a treaty by the end of 2008. Clearly, this is in our interest; time is of the essence. Stagnation is not an Israeli government policy. It doesn’t serve our own interests because we believe that we need to find a way to reach an understanding and to find a way to peace with our partners, with the pragmatic leaders on the Palestinian side – President Abu Mazen, Abu Ala and Salam Fayyad as the more pragmatic leaders, in contrast to the extremists headed by Hamas and the other leaders.

Now, clearly, the idea is not just to achieve a piece of paper; it’s a matter of substance. We need to reflect in the future paper the mutual interests of Israel and the Palestinians – those who want to live in peace with Israel. And we decided to address all these issues in order to represent these interests in the future treaty.

The idea is to find a way to have a package that the Israelis can live with, in the understanding that this is a way towards peace: on one hand, territorial compromises and concessions on peace; and on the other hand, of course, security to Israel. I believe that this is the basic understanding also of the Palestinians, because the idea is to give them the answer to their national aspirations in a territory of their own.

Now, we have a kind of a conflict. On one hand, we decided to reduce our expectations. We learned from past experience what happened when we faced high expectations and failure in 2000, which led to violence, and this is something that we cannot afford again. On the other hand, I know that conducting negotiations in the most discreet way – and the first decision by Abu Ala and myself was not to share with the public what is going on in the negotiating room – can sometimes lead to a lack of trust in the process itself. So we’d like to find the way to combine these two interests – on one hand, to gain the trust of the people; on the other hand, to do it with a low profile and not to raise expectations when it’s too early to do so. And just to remind you, we are just at the beginning of 2008.

Q: Madame Secretary, are you satisfied with the gestures that the Minister of Defense is willing to take in order to please the Palestinians? And, Madame Minister, do you support the evacuation compensation law?

SECRETARY OF STATE RICE: First of all, I would not characterize, though, what we need or what I expect to hear as gestures. I really do think that what we need to do is to have meaningful progress toward a better life for the Palestinian people, for the economic viability for Palestinians, even as we move toward the establishment of a state. And that’s why, as the Foreign Minister said, we’ve tried to do this in a simultaneous fashion. There’s a shared responsibility here for an atmosphere and a reality that can lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and economic viability for Palestinians.

And so that is what I’m looking to see if we can do. I understand the security considerations, and so I would hope and I expect that we’re going to be able to do some things, or that Israel and the Palestinians together will be able to do some things that are meaningful both for security and for economic viability. And it really does have to be shared responsibility for them.

FM LIVNI: I was asked about compensating settlers who wants to leave the West Bank.
[Translated from Hebrew:]
In principle, as someone who has experienced the whole disengagement process and understands the need to assist those being relocated, I believe that it is only fair to address this as early as possible. Whoever has settled in a location from which he wants to leave and so long as it is in accordance with the priorities of the State of Israel, the government should provide assistance. However, it seems to me that it is still too early. We have not yet reached a point in negotiations when the future borders will be defined. I think that it is difficult, at this stage, to transform this idea into a more detailed plan and implement it as a law. However,  these are the principles that will guide us.