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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
President Moshe Katsav on Wednesday called on Palestinian leaders to respect the conditions set by the Quartet for renewal of the political process between Israel and the Palestinians. Such a process would eventually lead to the realization of the proposed two-state solution, he said.
Katsav issued the call in the presence of diplomats, church leaders and heads of non-Jewish communities in Israel, at the annual Israel Independence Day reception that he hosts for representatives of the international community.
The conditions of the Quartet - which is comprised of the US, Russia, the EU and the UN - are, in fact, commitments given in the past by Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abass, and are not against the interests of the Palestinian people, he said.
Israel does not want to punish the Palestinian people, nor does it seek revenge, Katsav said. Israel fights to prevent terrorism, he said, noting that in recent years more Israelis have been killed by Palestinian terrorists than during the first 50 years of the state.
Reiterating his contention that the Palestinian elections were non-democratic, Katsav said, "Elections in which terrorist organizations participate can never be democratic."
The danger to peace in the world today is greater than during the Cold War, he warned, especially if a totalitarian country, one that helps international terrorist organizations, acquires nuclear weapons. Moderate Arab countries would find themselves threatened by international terrorism and the whole region would be in great danger, he said.
Israel is still struggling for its very existence said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The conditions are different to those of 58 years ago, she said, "but the battle continues." The struggle is not only existential she observed, but also for legitimacy.
She pointed out that among the good wishes of the nations of the world on 58th anniversary of Israel's independence, "other voices are being heard - voices which take us back to a previous generation." Back then, she said, the target was the Jewish people. Today, anti-Semitism is rearing its head around the globe not only against the Jewish people but against the State of Israel, a member of the family of nations.
Israel cannot ignore the voices coming from Iran or the Charter of Hamas, said Livni.
Although Israel has the capability to use military power, Livni emphasized, "this power will always have limits upon it because of our values."
Among the challenges facing Israel was the mandate given to the new government she said, to carry Israel forward to the day "when we can secure our permanent borders."
Among the hundreds of guests who filed past Livni, Katsav and his wife Gila and acting Knesset Speaker Shimon Peres was former Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irineos I, who triggered a church crisis by allegedly selling church land in east Jerusalem to Jews. The church synod dismissed him and appointed Metropolitan Theophilos in his place. However Israel continues to regard Irineos as the patriarch and he has been invited to numerous official functions at Beit Hanassi and elsewhere since Theophilos was installed.
Irineos arrived with an entourage of black cassocked priests, kissed both Katsav and Peres on both cheeks while one of his followers photographed the embrace for posterity, and was warmly received by the president and the acting Knesset speaker.