(photo credit: AP)
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said Monday that she is willing to be arrested abroad, in order to "be a test case… to speak up … about the military operation in the Gaza Strip."
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Livni said she was not worried about international attempts to take out arrest warrants on Israeli leaders for alleged war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. She said that she was willing to "explain that we left Gaza, we dismantled settlements, and when we were targeted [by terrorists], we showed restraint, but eventually we had to act against terror."
When asked by Amanpour if she was willing to be arrested, she answered, "Yes, the answer is yes."
Moving on to speak about the possibility of an internal Israeli investigation into the Gaza operation, Livni stressed that the most important outcome of such a probe would be to "defend Israeli soldiers."
Regardless of the finds of such an inquiry, she said, "the morality of Israeli soldiers is not in question."
"I want them to be able to leave Israel and visit other parts of the world… like other soldiers who fight for the free world," she said.
Referring specifically to the Goldstone Commission report, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during Cast Lead, Livni said, "I cannot accept any comparison between Israeli soldiers and these terrorists."
When asked whether Israel should pursue negotiations with Hamas, Livni responded firmly in the negative, stressing, "Hamas does not represent Palestinians… Israel needs to relaunch negotiations with Fatah, the legitimate Palestinian government."
She said that Hamas represents "extreme religious ideology."
Israel needs to "act in a dual strategy," working against terror, and "continuing dialogue with the moderates," Livni said.
The Kadima chair went on to talk about negotiations with the Palestinian Authority with which she was involved in 2008. "We built trust… they understood that the Israeli government, at least the former Israeli government, wants peace," she quipped.
Asked if she agreed with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell's assessment that a peace agreement could be reached in the next two years, Livni said, "Oh, yes." However she clarified, "It's not a matter of time, it's a matter of understanding, on both sides."
"The two leaderships need to understand that time is of the essence… it's time for decisions," Livni told CNN.