Despite the risks and its own disappointment, Israel must explore all possibilities for exploring peace with the Palestinians, Tzipi Livni, Israel’s justice minister and envoy to the peace process, told an audience Tuesday in Jerusalem. Speaking at a forum hosted by The Israel Project, Livni emphasized that Western pressure was necessary to bring reluctant Palestinian leaders to the table:
“[Abbas] needs to know that the Europeans, and the world, they want him to sit in the negotiating room, when there is hope to negotiate and hope to achieve peace,” she said. The countries that supported the Palestinian bid at the United Nations to upgrade its status to that of a non-member state must give this message to Abbas because he said the upgrade would strengthen his ability to negotiate with Israel, Livni said.
Livni ran on a peace platform in the last election, and her Hatnuah party was the first brought into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current coalition. She had had participated in numerous rounds of peace talks with PA President Mahmoud Abbas as foreign minister under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Livni added that she “believe[s] there is an opportunity here to give us a chance, to give [Secretary of State John] Kerry a chance, to relaunch negotiations and to close all the other doors to other channels.” Her comments echoed those of Israeli cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz, who also spoke at the conference about the Israeli government’s commitment to moving peace talks forward.
“As for those with keys around their necks waiting to go to Tel Aviv or Jaffa – that’s not going to happen,” Livni said, referring to the Palestinians’ so-called “right of return” to present-day Israel.
“This is a tough neighborhood – we see Syria killing its own people, Iran moving towards nuclear weapons, change on the Arab streets, Hamas, Hezbollah,” she said. “I don’t think we can create a new Mideast – that will take time. But we need to choose between bad options in this region – and minimize the dangers of doing nothing.”