'We can't afford another terror state'

Livni to UN: W. Bank pullout alone can't bring peace; ME conflict is consequence of extremism, not cause.

October 1, 2007 16:46
3 minute read.
'We can't afford another terror state'

Livni and Abbas 298.88. (photo credit: AP)


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Iran is the world's biggest sponsor of terrorism and openly calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, and yet the international community is silent, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the UN General Assembly Monday morning. "Too many see the danger but walk idly by - hoping that someone else will take care of it," said Livni in the largely empty General Assembly hall. "What is the value of an organization which is unable to take effective action in the face of a direct assault on the very principles it was founded to protect?" she asked. In comments apparently aimed at China and Russia, Livni cited the Iranian nuclear program to question the efficacy of the UN. Both countries, which are among the five permanent members of the Security Council, have resisted imposing a third set of sanctions against Teheran. "No responsible state disagrees that Iran is the most prominent sponsor of terrorism," Livni said. "None disagrees that Iran denies the Holocaust and speaks openly of its desire to wipe a member state, mine, off the map." "And none disagree that, in violation of Security Council resolutions, it is actively pursuing the means to achieve this end," she said. "But there are still those who, in the name of consensus and engagement, continue to obstruct the urgent steps which are needed to bring Iran's sinister ambitions to a halt." The foreign minister's comments were part of a larger point she was trying to drive home, namely that the Middle East conflict is a consequence, not the cause, of a global extremist agenda. "Israel may be on the front lines of this battle, but it is not our fight alone," said Livni. "The notion that this battle was a local one, limited to isolated regions, collapsed in this city with the twin towers on a September morning six years ago." Extremists, Livni said, had taken aim at the fundamental pillars of modernity: democracy, tolerance and education. It was in these arenas, she said, that the "future of our world will be decided." It was time, she added, to "reclaim democracy." "Bitter experience has shown that by buying off extremists is a short-term fix for which we pay dearly in the long run," said Livni. "Instead, groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah must be presented with a clear choice, between the path of violence and the path of legitimacy - they cannot have both." Israel was prepared to make territorial concessions, Livni said, but judging from past withdrawals from Gaza (2005) and Lebanon (2000), "a pullout cannot in and of itself bring about peace." The solution to the Middle East conflict lay in the creation of a state as a homeland for the Palestinians, Livni reiterated. But just as a viable and prosperous Palestine was in Israel's interest, she said, a secure Israel must be a Palestinian concern. "The world cannot afford another terror state," she said. With the US-sponsored Middle East conference due next month, Israel looked to the international community and the Arab and Muslim world "to offer support, not to stipulate conditions," said Livni. This support, she said, should come via economic and political assistance to the PA government and endorsement of political understanding reached between the parties. In a press conference following her address, Livni encouraged her Arab counterparts to accept "any outcome" of the upcoming conference. "We hope they come and hope that they don't wait until the end to normalize [relations], but move step by step, which is no less important." The foreign minister's remarks came as Syrian President Bashar Assad said his representatives would not attend the conference unless Israel first addressed the return of the Golan Heights. Syria has been invited to attend by the US, as a member of the Arab League. Livni told Army Radio that the central issue under discussion should not be the upcoming US conference, but the bilateral path with the Palestinians. "The next few weeks, in which there will be dialogue between [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas, will dictate the character of the conference... Speculations are superfluous. The progress, in the end, [will be measured by] the outcome." Despite all the obstacles, Livni told the General Assembly, "There is a new moment of opportunity, and an alliance of interest that favors peace."

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