FM Livni: Israel has no hidden agenda. Our idea is to find a way to define the future borders of the Palestinian state while giving an answer to Israel’s security needs.

 Joint press conference with FM Livni and US Secretary of State Rice


FM Livni and US Secy of State Rice   (Photo: Reuters)

Joint Press Conference with Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Jerusalem, 4 May 2008

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI:  Thank you. I would like to welcome Secretary Rice on her visit to the region. We discussed the ongoing negotiations  between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We shared the ideas on where we stand.  Later we have another meeting, a trilateral meeting, with Abu Alaa. So Secretary Rice is going to discuss the situation with the two chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

And of course, we’re going to continue the negotiations in order to reach an understanding that can create, or translate, the vision of two states with two people sitting side by side in peace and security into something which is complete and can be implemented.

And this is what’s going on. This is what we discussed today.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you for welcoming me here. We have discussed the ongoing negotiations coming out of Annapolis. Earlier I had an opportunity to talk to about the other tracks of Annapolis, improving the lives of Palestinians on the ground, talking about Roadmap obligations, because it’s very important that the three tracks move together to give support.

We want to see an agreement by the end of the year subject to Roadmap implementation. So I’m here to talk about all of these elements. I will shortly, very shortly, which is why we will have to be quick in this press conference, meet with Foreign Minister Livni and with Abu Alaa of the Palestinian Authority. And we’ve had very good discussions, and we expect them to continue.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, the first question for you. You came here. We learned, to confirm the schedule, the (inaudible) schedule of the visit of President Bush in Israel soon. And two questions. One, were you surprised by the developments that we just heard from the police investigation — the new investigation of Prime Minister Olmert? This is first question. And if the question goes about the development, which is quite surprising, is it possible that the negotiations with the Palestinians will continue as planned, or will it be that investigation will be detrimental to the process to a point where it may be at risk?

And the question to Minister Livni, (in Hebrew): What do you think of the new investigation of the Prime Minister? What is the significance of this investigation to the continuation of the [Annapolis] process, the government, and Prime Minister Olmert?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, the President is very much looking forward to his visit here in 10 days or so to Israel. We are very excited to have a chance to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding. I think it is only proper for the American President — the United States was the first country to recognize Israel some 11 minutes after it was established. And so I think it’s going to be a quite joyful day.

The matters concerning the investigation are internal matters for Israel. I can only say that I had a very good discussion last night with the Prime Minister. I’ve had very good discussions today with the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister, and I expect those to continue as we seek to move forward on the Annapolis process.

FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: (In Hebrew) It’s no secret that I’m a great believer in the separation of powers in Israeli democracy, and in the political system’s noninvolvement in the activities of the law enforcement authorities.

The only right thing that can be done at this stage is of course to allow the investigative agents to do their job.

Naturally, I have complete faith in the law enforcement agents, and I have no doubt that they will do their job objectively. I hope they will also complete the investigation quickly so as to dispel the current uncertainty.

We are here today to discuss a very important subject, that of the negotiations I am conducting. That’s the subject matter of the meetings with the Secretary of State. More meetings will be held and of course, I intend to continue later today and in the coming days.

QUESTION: This is a question for Mrs. Livni. The Quartet on Friday called on Israel to freeze all settlement activity including lateral growth. I’d like to know if you can tell us publicly now if the Israeli government is going to comply with the Roadmap obligations.

FM LIVNI: According to Annapolis, we decided to launch negotiations on final status issues between Israel and the Palestinians while simultaneously addressing the obligations of the two sides according to the Roadmap. And at the end of the negotiations, of course, the implementation is subject to the Roadmap.

I would like to say clearly that while negotiating the final status issues, the borders and the territory of the future Palestinian state, we clearly showed, especially in the DISENGAGEMENT PLAN from the Gaza Strip, that settlements were not obstacles when it comes to — while it was not a peace process — when there was a need for Israel to withdraw and to send a message of peace, we dismantled the settlements.

So, clearly, we need to address the situation on the ground, on one hand, and Israel is going to implement its obligations according to the Roadmap. There is no new construction of new settlements according to Israeli government policy. Israel stopped confiscating new land from Palestinians for purposes of building settlements or expanding settlements. I know that there were some activities before that led to some frustration and maybe uneasiness on the Palestinian side, and led to a kind of suspicion that Israel had a hidden agenda on this. But I can assure you that Israel has no hidden agenda. Our idea is to reach an understanding, to find a way to define the future borders of the Palestinian state while, of course, giving an answer to Israel’s security needs and other issues that are part of our concern, including the need to end the conflict by defining the future Palestinian territory.

IN UNISON: Thank you very much.