Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday morning after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice over breakfast in Jerusalem: “There are differences of opinion are over the road map. We must reach a basic understanding that the creation of a Palestinian state should occur only after Israel’s security is established”. Livni’s remarks were reported in Haaretz newspaper: “The situation is complicated,” Livni said. “One must understand that we have a shared interest with the moderates in the [Palestinian] Authority, and they need to understand that first there must be security, and only then a Palestinian state. The problem is not over making a joint declaration, but what its content would be”… The Haaretz report on Livni’s remarks after a breakfast meeting with Rice is here.
On Saturday evening, at the Saban Forum, Livni told the glitterati that attended that “Today, the Palestinians understand that terrorism harms their own interests. At the same time, there are problems with implementing the vision, given the current situation. There are problems with their ability to deliver, and we must strengthen the moderate leadership in order to improve the situation on the ground … We cannot turn a blind eye to the reality and the terrorism in the Gaza Strip. Therefore, we have decided to adopt a dual strategy – to isolate Hamas, to take steps against terrorism and, at the same time, to look for a vision and a common denominator with the Palestinian leadership and together to change the situation on the ground. The change must be on the ground and not just in theory. I believe that we must send a message to the Palestinian people that the situation does not have to be this way, that there is a choice. The duality must become reality. [emphasis added] However, as we try to find a common denominator, Israel’s security needs and the reality on the ground must be addressed. The formula we have chosen is the Roadmap. The Roadmap is based on the understanding that the path to establishing a Palestinian state passes through ensuring Israel’s security.
Livni continued, in her speech to the Saban Forum: “This formula was adopted by the entire international community, including Israel and the Palestinians. The original idea was to create a continuum of security – dialogue – permanent arrangement. We could have waited until the end of the first stage’s implementation, but we chose not to, because we believe in dialogue with the Palestinians. However, we still have to provide a solution to the problems of security. Therefore, we decided to begin a dialogue now and to return to security before the agreements are implemented. [emphasis added] Now the implementation of the first stage is beginning, by both sides. We are continuing the dialogue but must remember our security needs; we owe that to ourselves and to both peoples …. It is not true that Israel is avoiding in advance discussion of the sensitive issues. We are not holding a dialogue for the sake of dialogue [n.b., and Condoleeza Rice insists that the U.S. is not proposing to convene the Annapolis peace conference, or “meeting”, just to have a photo-op]. We must learn from past experience, and it is our responsibility to draw conclusions and to do the right thing. We must see if it is possible to reach understandings on these topics, to see if we can proceed; this is a process that we will understand in the near future [emphasis added]. We have already experienced failure in the past and we don’t want to go there again. … The Arab world must lend its support to the process, without taking the place of the Palestinians in the negotiations. If a conference supporting the process is convened [emphasis added — and note the conditional tense], they must go to it and support it, not place obstacles before it. They as well as the international community must help bridge the gap between the willingness and intentions of the Palestinian government and its ability on the ground“. [Livni’s speech to the Saban Forum was distributed Sunday by email.]
Veteran Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery wrote the following in his latest column, “Say it with flowers“, published on 3 November: “In preparation for the Annapolis meeting, the Prime Minister has put the Foreign Minister in charge of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. You might well ask: Isn’t it natural for the Foreign Ministry to deal with foreign policy? Well, it may be natural in other countries. In Israel, it is not natural at all … Throughout the years…The important issues in foreign relations were handled by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry, with the assistance of the Mossad. Our ambassadors around the world heard about it on the news … In our country, this is especially pronounced, because of the central role the army plays in our national life. In the Israeli card game, one general outweighs ten ambassadors. The evaluations of Army Intelligence and the reports of the Mossad trump all the papers of the Foreign Office – if anyone reads those at all … The Israeli Foreign Minister…speechifies, declares and announces, but it is not clear where she would be leading our foreign policy, if she were indeed allowed to lead it … One time she tries to outflank Olmert on the left, another time on the right. One day she speaks about the necessity to deal with the ‘core issues’, another day she says that the time is not ripe for a final settlement. She supported the recent Lebanon war, but now she criticizes it severely. After the publication of the Winograd commission’s interim report, she called for Olmert’s resignation, intending to replace him herself, but when that little putsch-attempt collapsed, she remained in his government and continues to bear responsibility for his actions and omissions …
“Livni detests Olmert, and Olmert detests Livni. True, both come ‘from the same village’ – Ehud’s father and Tzipi’s father were both senior members of the Irgun. Both were raised in the same right-wing political atmosphere, both drank from the same fountain. When Livni’s mother died a few weeks ago, they stood next to each other at the funeral and sang the Betar anthem … [But] Israel’s foreign policy emanates from domestic considerations: Olmert is determined to survive at any cost. Since his government includes extreme right-wing and even fascist elements, any real movement towards peace would lead to its dissolution.
“If a government has no long-term aim, how does it conduct policy? Kissinger does not seem to give an answer to this. I do have one: When there is no conscious aim, an unconscious one takes control, a pre-existing aim that provides a direction as if by itself, by force of inertia. The genetic code of the Zionist movement leads it to struggle with the Palestinian people for the possession of the whole of historical Palestine and the expansion of Jewish settlement from the sea to the river. As long as it is not supplanted by a national resolution to adopt another aim – a clear, open and long-term decision – it will go on following this course. No such resolution has matured and been adopted. The ministers speak about other possibilities, babble about the ‘Two-State Solution’, toss around diverse slogans, make declarations and issue statements, but in reality, on the ground, the old policy continues unabated, as if nothing has happened. If another decision had been adopted, the change would have been far-reaching – from the ‘body language’ of the government to the tone of its voice. At present, the tones that make the music are still those of the Betar anthem …
“Is there any evidence of Olmert’s intention not to take any serious step towards peace? Indeed there is. It is his decision to put Tzipi Livni in charge of the contacts with the Palestinians. If Olmert wants to achieve a historic breakthrough, he will make sure he himself gets full credit for the achievement. If he turns it over to his rival, that means it has no chance at all.”
Uri Avnery’s column can be found here.