(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday the peace plans being presented by Arab nations were not a substitute for direct negotiations with the Palestinians.
Speaking to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in the first meeting of that committee to ever be opened to the public, Livni gave MKs her diplomatic outlook.
"The moderate, pragmatic Arab nations must urge the Palestinians to move forward with peace talks," said Livni. "We are not substituting one set of talks for another."
Livni also said she did not believe that a military incursion into Gaza would end the ongoing violence there. An incursion by the IDF into Gaza would only strengthen extremist groups operating in the Gaza Strip, who want to see the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail.
A two-state solution is the only answer, Livni said several times during the meeting, with a peaceful border respected by both parties. Livni added that once that two-state solution was reached, the Palestinians should be given the ability to apply the right of return only to their own borders, and not to Israel.
Livni acknowledged that the time might not be right for the Israeli government to make "concrete steps" towards peace, since the head of the PA is currently an "extremist religious terror organization."
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) countered that the time was not right because "the [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert government is weak."
"There is a tendency for weak governments to try and make peace to save themselves politically," said Steinitz. "Do not try that road."
Turning to the Iranian nuclear program, Livni said Iran had aspirations of becoming a regional power and exported its ideology via Shi'ite minorities in Arab countries.
Livni said Iran wished to generate a widespread ideology based on Holocaust denial and the destruction of Israel. She noted that Gulf States and the more pragmatic Muslim nations were coming to the realization that Iran poses a threat to them as well, and noted that this trend had an influence on their attitude towards Israel.
Israel and the Palestinians have joint interests in facing the Iranian threat, said Livni, adding that last week's Cairo summit was a breakthrough first meeting between Israel and the Arab collective, which wishes to support the process with the Palestinians.
"The Arab world is ready for normalization with Israel after the conflict ends. The more Israel provides a diplomatic horizon for the Palestinians, the more the Arab world can strengthen Israel in a process based on a stage-by-stage progression," Livni said. "In my opinion, Israel must take advantage of this readiness to garner support of a bilateral process with the Palestinians."
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