It’s not too late to implement a vision of two states for two nations, said Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni during a half-hour session titled “Global Leader in the Spotlight.
Despite a mild start with a question posed by director of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East Sherif El Diwany, where he asked what Israel was “willing to offer the Palestinians on its 60th anniversary, the discussion heated up with participants grilling Livni with a torrent of questions and comments about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the building of more settlements in the West Bank, and Israel’s occupation of Shebaa Farms.
Livni began with a “clarification about the wrong perception that the creation of the State of Israel as per a UN resolution was what led to the conflict.
“There was no decision taken by the Arab world to accept the idea of partition, she said, and hence they call it the Nakba.
Questioned about the Gaza blockade, the ensuing humanitarian crisis and what Israel planned to do as a powerful country to heal the hatred that was bred by it and truly make peace, Livni referred back to Israel’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the Strip and dismantle the settlements.
“It’s not easy to uproot people but we wanted to take a step . but those who find excuses for hate, its there, she said, adding that Hamas’ take-over of Gaza by force has become an obstacle for the Palestinians because they have an “agenda based on hatred. . But its not our policy to punish Palestinians for what their leaders are doing.
Next Livni denied that there were any secret talks taking place between Israel and Syria, but did not pass up the opportunity to emphasize the latter’s “destructive influence in the region when it comes to Lebanon and support for Hezbollah.
About Shebaa Farms, she said that the UN says they are part of Syria and so the area will be part of future negotiations between Israel and Syria and should not be taken as an excuse by Hezbollah and its backer Iran, whose only aim is to “destabilize the region.
The next two interlocutors challenged the Israeli FM’s claims of commitment to peace. One West Bank resident whose family was separated from him in Gaza said that even in the West Bank there was no perception of peace and that the withdrawal from Gaza was not an act of peace but a means of tightening the noose on the area as Israel took control of the sea and shut down the airport.
“You’ve repeated that you are pro-peace and pro-negotiations, noted another participant, “yet you continue to expand illegal colonies, borders and check points in the name of security although this induces a state of insecurity. So in light of this, what is the timeline for the creation of a Palestinian State?
Livni responded that she didn’t say the crossings were open, but that they were only open to allow humanitarian relief, a fact generally denied by aid agencies in the area.
“In Annapolis we started a process, she continued, “where the idea of two states living side-by-side in peace and security is not a slogan. . We cannot make vague statements . in doing so we need to address simultaneously the situation on the ground.
“We are not talking about policy but about security.
The situation is complicated, she added, but today the vast majority of Israelis believe that a two-state solution is not only a need resulting from international pressure but it is in the interests of Israel.
But, she pointed out, the support of the Arab world is crucial. “We need a sustainable peace through addressing the situation on the ground.
In an answer to another question about the timeline for declaring a Palestinian state in light of the apathy and despair felt by the Palestinians, Livni was vague, saying that it was up to the Palestinians to decide what they regard as appropriate for a future agreement because “this is based on compromise from both sides.
But, she added, a timeline is a problem because when there are high expectations that are frustrated, this leads to intifada.
“Yes, during the conflict people suffer, but the question is, are we willing to shape a better future? she said.s