(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In an unprecedented appeal to the Arab world via the pages of an Arabic newspaper, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday published an article in the London-based daily Asharq Al-Awsat calling for understanding between Israelis and Arabs, and urging the Arab world to unite with Israel against Islamic extremists.
Livni wrote that she wanted to use the platform to explain Israel's position, which is often "misunderstood" in the Arab world. Israel's "raison d'etre was, and remains, to be a peaceful, democratic and Jewish State," she wrote, according to an English version of the article
also submitted to The Jerusalem Post (which may differ somewhat from the Arabic text). "It is these very values that lead us to embrace the vision of two homelands, two states - Israel and Palestine - living side by side in peace and security, and to pursue genuine peace with all our neighbors.
"We have no desire to control the lives of Palestinians. Palestinian terrorists have targeted Israelis, and we must defend ourselves against them, but they have also brought tragedy to Palestinians. As recent events in Gaza have shown, while the terrorists may claim to be advancing Palestinian rights, they have succeeded only in undermining them."
This was Livni's only reference to the Hamas takeover in Gaza.
"Israel has a vested interest," she wrote, "shared by moderates throughout the region, in the creation of a stable, prosperous and peaceful neighbor that is committed to advancing the Palestinian state, not opposing the Jewish one. As we demonstrated through the disengagement from Gaza, Israel is ready to take painful steps to advance this goal. But we need to know that our partners, too, are ready for historic compromise, and that our sacrifices will bring a secure and lasting peace. We, too, deserve a political horizon."
"While there is no substitute for direct Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, the supporting role of the international community will be essential," Livni wrote, highlighting the Arab world's role.
"The landmark Arab peace initiative presents just such an opportunity for positive regional engagement," she wrote. "If used correctly, it can serve not as a dictate that ties the hands of the negotiating parties, but as a vehicle for Arab states to provide support and legitimacy for the agreed compromises that both Israelis and Palestinians will need to make as part of any future agreement negotiated between them."
Livni warned that "the enemies of coexistence, headed by the likes of Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas, will do all in their power to sabotage any prospect for peace. They are determined to transform conflicts that are political and resolvable into ones that are religious and irreconcilable."
Therefore, she concluded, "it is not enough for the people of the Middle East to quietly hope that the dark designs of the extremists will not materialize. Yes, there is a peace alternative. It offers a brighter, more secure and more dignified future for us all. It offers an alternative reality for a region built on hope rather than fear. But the people of the Middle East, and their leaders, must have the wisdom and the courage to choose it."