Geneva Initiative Annexes
Geneva Initiative Annexes


Livni: Don’t close the window on the dove of peace

At Herzliya Conference

Date: 2.2.2009

Below are relevent excerpts from Kadmia Chair Tzipi Livni's remarks at the annual Herzliya Conference. Livni is in the running to become Israel's next prime minister and has led the Isdraeli negotiating team opposite the Palestinians for over a year.

"The meeting takes place during a decisive hour for the people. True, Israel has been battling for its survival since its establishment, and the challenges are many and significant, but I believe the magnitude of the decision is conditioned not only on the magnitude of the threat, but also on the magnitude of the opportunity. The world around us is changing; the threats are changing, and along with these changes come new opportunities. In the outdated Israeli outlook, it is a small spot on the globe surrounded by a hostile Arab world, misunderstood by the world. There's a feeling that "the entire world is against us," that intensifies during difficult times. This feeling is hard for people—for a people. We're then inclined to shut ourselves in, overtaken by righteousness and fearful of any change. I know this feeling. We've been there. It's hopeless. This reality can be changed at the present point in time, on the condition that we raise our heads, observe the changes around us—see the threats but also the opportunities and reconnect to what is right, to what Israel needs to be, to what our parents wished for us and to what we can do for the sake of our children in the State of Israel.

"In classrooms and in the rooms where decisions are made, the words "Jewish and democratic" must be etched into the walls, because it is from these principles that we must derive the principles on which we will raise our children. That is the essence of this state and the reason for its being. Jabotinsky wrote that the term "Jewish state: meant a Jewish majority—that's where Zionism started and there lies the secret to its existence. Jabotinsky spoke of a Jewish majority that would ensure the state's character would always be based on a Jewish state integrating democratic values.

"The crossroads at which we stand will determine the face of the state in the coming years. We have a historic opportunity to decide Israel's character, and it depends on our ability to seize these opportunities."

"I refuse to accept that the choice is between peace and security. Anyone forcing the public to accept such a choice and believe you can get any security without some sort of peace is misleading the public and misleading himself. I refuse to forget peace.

"We must act on a dual strategy as we have since Hamas rose to power in Gaza. Israel must combine its military strength with political initiative… Israel must initiate. Standing by and doing nothing is not an option—it's a bad option. If we don't put a plan in Hebrew on the table, we will be required to accept a plan in Arabic, French or English—plans that will never reflect Israel's interests as Israel understands them."

"There's a new government in the U.S…. I've read that some people are afraid of this—who see this as a threat and not as an opportunity. The threat is that the new government will pressure Israel to achieve peace. In my view, peace is not a threat, but rather an Israeli interest, and that is our opportunity. We are embarking on something new with a country with which we share a set of values, a long-standing friendship, and a clear understanding of interests in the Middle East. Let's examine what Israel can bring to this friendship. With the right leadership, Israel will understand that the political process is our interest. When we see that the Israeli leadership is serious in its efforts and has advanced the process in diffcult times, and we understand the meaning of peace in terms of securing our interests—even with the concessions required—I can assure you that we will not have a relationship of threats. Rather, we will enjoy a true partnership… When going into the first meeting between the new prime minister and the new president, there are two options: Either each side knows where the other is standing, or each side is extremely suspicious of the other.

"From the sober understanding of someone who has been sitting downs with the Palestinians for over a year, I don't think we will wake up to a new Middle East tomorrow morning. I know achieving peace isn’t only up to us, but we are an essential factor in the process. I know what Israel's interests are within the negotiations and I know what we're going to insist on until it's included in the agreement—and if it won't be included in the agreement, there'll be no agreement. But I also know how close we are to an agreement. We can't afford not to go through with it. Abba Eban once said that the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. I don’t want this historical sentence to damn us for not doing, and not for bowing to pressure. Peace is our interest. Preventing the establishment of a binational state or one state between the sea and the Jordan River that bears no shred of resemblance to a Jewish state—that is our interest. That is our national test, and we must decide whether we're ready to take this additional step while fighting terrorism, and that is also the choice facing the citizens of Israel in eight days.

"The elections will determine whether our government will be one that initiates or one that is dragged along, a Jewish state or a binational state at most, fear or hope. Israel of peace can be a state with a constitution, a state with clear values that don’t leave room for uncertainty and hatred between Arabs and Jews, Immigrants and veterans; a state where the same values and content are taught in all the schools, and each child has equal opportunities for the future; a state with no "periphery" in terms of education and society—we can’t afford that; a state whose enemies know it will take a strong stand against them, but one that peace-seekers know is also willing to work towards peace.

"I appeal to all of those children from the winter of 1973, who painfully said : 'You promised us a dove with an olive branch.' Know that there is a dove on the windowsill. WQe can shut the window and wit won’t be here anymore, but we can carefully and cautiously open it and advance the process. It's highly complicated and contains risks, but it is possible. The choice is in our hands, in the hands of all of you. Thank you."