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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Interview with Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Japanese Television

Interview with Israel Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Japanese Television
Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
17 January 2007

Q: Foreign Minister Livni, thank you very much for your time. My first
question is regarding the Palestinian issue. If we review the past year,
there have been so many incidents in your region: the Hamas victory at
elections, also the victory of your party, Kadima; internal conflict in
Palestine, and now President Abbas is trying to form a National Unity
Government. So, can you tell us your basic strategy on how to promote a
peace process in such a difficult situation?

FM Livni: Yes, of course. Israel has no magic solution to achieve peace and
to live in peace with the Palestinians. The goal is a two-state a solution:
one for the Jewish people, and the other for the Palestinians. But in order
for these two states to live in peace, the Palestinians must stop their
terror attacks and the violence against Israel and Israelis.

Now, before the elections in the Palestinians Authority, Israel took a very
clear, difficult and painful step. We withdrew from Gaza Strip, we
dismantled settlements, in order to open a window for opportunity for the
Palestinians. But unfortunately, the Palestinian elections brought Hamas
into power, and Hamas is terrorist organization, with an extremist ideology.
I believe that they don't represent the national hopes of all Palestinians.
So, the idea is to distinguish the terrorists from the moderates, the
extremists from the moderates in the government - Haniya and Abu Mazen,
Hamas and Fatah. This in order to give those Palestinians who, I believe,
want to live in peace as well, the opportunity to understand that Hamas
cannot deliver - not in economic terms, nor in political terms - when it
comes to the conflict. Because terror can't win.

On the other hand, there are moderates - Mahmoud Abbas represents them - and
we would like to see an alternative for the Palestinians, which will give
them the possibility to lead decent lives in the Palestinian Authority, to
create their own state, and to live in peace and non-violence with Israel.
Now it is crucial that the strengthening of the moderates goes hand in hand
with pressure on the extremists.

After the elections, the international community, viewing the Palestinian
Authority as a threat, issued very important requirements from any
Palestinian government. And this refers also to the unity government.
Because the unity government can be effective only if it respects the
requirements of the international community, renounces violence and
terrorism, accepts Israel's right to exist, and accepts the former
agreements between Israel and Palestinians. These basic requirements for
legitimacy, it is important to understand, are requirements of any
Palestinian government, whether a Hamas government or a unity government.

Q: US Secretary Condoleezza Rice recently visited Israel. She started her
trip with you in Jerusalem, and said that her trip was intended to
accelerate progress on the Roadmap. So, was it really accelerated by her
visit? If yes, how?

FM Livni: No, this is only the beginning. Stagnation is not Israeli
government policy, and it is not our interest. So we all looking for way to
promote the process, but of course, the process must stand with two pillars.
One is the vision for a Palestinian state, and the other is Israeli
security. The Roadmap is based on the understanding that the end of the road
is a Palestinian state for the Palestinians, but first the Palestinians must
not only renounce violence and terrorism, but also the extremist terrorist

I believe in the need for discussion between Israelis and moderate
Palestinians. I also want the Palestinians to understand that we are willing
to discuss with Abu Mazen what we can do and what is not viable right now,
with the moderates in the Palestinian Authority.

So, the outcome of Secretary Rice's visit to the region is a future meeting
between Dr. Rice, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Mahmoud Abbas in
order to find a way to accelerate the process through more concrete steps.
Of course, this should reflect the two pillars of political rights on one
hand, and Israeli security the other.

Q: Condoleezza Rice, Prime Minister Olment and Abu Mazen are scheduled to
meet in the near future. So, please tell us, what breakthrough we can expect
from this meeting?

FM Livni: Unfortunately, I don't think there is any magical key to solve
this conflict. There is mutual interest between Israel and moderates in the
Palestinian Authority, and we would like to see what we can do. It's not
just a matter of new ideas; we don't have to invent anything new. But we
have to see what is possible: what are Abu Mazen's possibilities; what are
Abu Mazen's abilities; what are the alternatives in the Palestinian
Authority. But clearly, as I said, it is crucial while speaking with
moderates in power to put pressure on the extremists, and then to see
whether we take further steps to promote this process. But I don't believe
in negotiations without meeting with Palestinians. We have to discuss
together the steps to be taken in order to achieve peace and to maintain
Israel's security.

Q: You also mentioned the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister
Olmert recently told the Chinese News Agency that he has come to believe
now, from his experience from the Gaza Strip, and also from Lebanon, that
unilateral withdrawal was a failure. This was Kadima's main election
campaign slogan. How do you respond to that?

FM Livni: In any steps that Israel will take in the future, whether as the
outcome of negotiations with Palestinians or other steps, Israel has to
safeguard certain interests, security interests, that represent the true
meaning of peace. For example, in discussing the future Palestinian state,
how we can stop this state from militarization, how we can ensure that its
borders will not be used to smuggle weapons, as Palestinians are doing today
in the Gaza Strip.

So, what I am going to say represents the ideology of Kadima, as a party,
which I believe also represents Israeli government policy, and I believe
that it represents the policy and interests of the vast majority of
Israelis: We would like to promote a process, we would like to create two
states, not only as a vision, but as reality. But of course any step that
Israel takes must take into consideration security.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian misunderstood the Israeli withdrawal from the
Gaza Strip. Our idea was to to open a new opportunity for peace, and it was
misused by Hamas and by the terrorists, who, instead of investing in their
own people to create something new in the Gaza Strip, they turned it into a
terror nest. How exactly to achieve peace, based on the two pillars I
mentioned, whether through an agreement or with the understanding of the
international community, this is more a question of tactical steps. I would
like not to draw the lines here, but I can assure you, and of course I can
assure the Israeli public, that any kind of step will take into
consideration and reflect Israeli security.

Q: So, in short, withdrawal was failed?

FM Livni: No, I supported the original withdrawal. I believed that this was
the right thing to do, understanding that we were taking some risks, but
calculated risks. When Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, we had the
understanding and support of the international community that Israel has
right to defend itself. We have ability to do so; it is a matter of
decision. When it comes to the settlers, as a minister, I took the difficult
decision to take people out of their homes. Israel has to fight terrorism,
but at the end of the day, the Gaza Strip is not a part of Israel. I think
this is not only understood by me. So, we have to continue fighting
terrorism, and we also have to see if there is any way to promote peace
process while maintaining Israel's security interests.

Q: About Japan - can you assess Japan's contribution to the peace in the
Middle East? And what do you expect more?

FM Livni: I believe that Japan and Israel have the same values in terms of
humanity and human needs, and I believe that Japan shares the same
interests, not only values but also the interests, with the other moderate
states in the region with regard to the best steps to take. So, you see,
it's not a zero sum game. Supporting Israel is not necessarily anti-Arab or
anti-Palestinian, and there are steps that are in the interests of Israel as
well as of the Palestinians.

So, Japan is playing a very important role in helping Palestinians and in
promoting economic projects on the ground. Because in the end of the day we
are talking about the people and how they are living. And the projects are
crucial. During my visit, I would like also to share with the Japanese
leadership our vision of the economic process through which Japan is
supporting and helping the Palestinians. I believe this is both in our
interest and the interest of the Palestinians. There is a special Japanese
envoy to the Middle East, I met him in Israel, and I will share with him
some ideas of the region, in the area of water and other development

Talking about the Middle East, the real threat in the region is not the
Palestinian-Israel conflict, which is painful for us, but the Iranian
threat. I would like to express our appreciation to Japan in taking the
right steps as part of international community, as a member of the Security
Council, in imposing sanctions and also adding new, additional sanctions.
Because this is a threat not only to Israel, but to the moderate Arab and
Moslem states in the region, and the entire world. We can see here a domino
affect. We see the proliferation of mass destruction - there is North Korea,
there is Iran and the connection between two of them, and the international
community must act. And Japan has played and continues to play a very
important role here as well.

Q: About the nuclear issue, many countries in the Middle East are claiming
that the main reason for the nuclear threat which has spread in the region
is that Israel possesses nuclear bombs. For example, Libya says that they
have abandoned nuclear armament, and now it is the time for the
international community to focus on Israel's nuclear issue. How do you
respond that?

FM Livni: Libya, as you know, is not playing a positive role in the region.
I don't want to refer to this accusation, because everybody knows the truth.
Everyone understands that the threat is Iran, and Iran is trying to achieve
nuclear weapons. Parallel to this, you can hear the President of Iran, and
how he speaks of the denial of the Holocaust, saying they must erase Israel
from the map. The reason for Iran's nuclear program is not Israel and it's
not the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The achievement of nuclear weapons is
part of the extreme Islamic ideology of the Iranian regime.

Let's say that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is soon solved - do you
imagine that Iran would put aside their extremist ideology? This ideology is
not connected to the national spirit of the Palestinian, but it is connected
to the vision of creating nuclear capability, and this is the real threat to
the region. This is the understanding of the entire international community.
I think there are some difference among some members of the international
community as to what are the right steps to be taken - whether soft or hard
sanctions - but when it comes to the nuclear issue, the threat is Iran, and
I hope others like Libya will not seek excuses elsewhere.

Q: A final questions concerning moderate countries in the Middle East, such
as Egypt and Jordan. Despite peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, economic
ties or partnerships on the grassroots level do not seem to have developed
as much as expected. So could you tell us, how do you plan to strengthen the
relationship with these moderate countries for the future?

FM Livni: This is, for us, the real meaning of the word "peace". Peace is
not only ceasefire, and peace doesn't mean only no violence. Peace means
living side by side, with economic ties and mutual investments. I believe
that this is the also the way that the leaders of Egypt and Jordan view
relations with Israel. Of course, there are some difficulties, sometimes
there is a gap between what the leaders believe and what they understand is
best for their own people; a gap between perceptions and public opinion. And
sometimes, although improving relations with Israel is for benefit for both
states, this is not always understood by public opinion.

We would to like to see stronger economic ties between Israel and Jordan and
Egypt, and we are going to invest in it. Here, Japan has played a very
important role by investing in projects in both of these states, and this
will be a part of my discussions here today. The specific projects are less
important. What is more important is the understanding that Japan is
contributing to strengthening the ties with the moderate states in the

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