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With Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas sharing the stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday gave the clearest explanation yet of her ideas for moving the diplomatic process forward.
"The role of the international community is to disempower the extremists and to empower the moderates," Livni said.
Part of the way to strengthen the moderates is by giving financial support, Livni said. "The other is giving a political horizon so that in future elections the [Palestinian] voters can look at the possibilities and will face a clear distinction between those who can deliver on a financial and political level, who can give hope, and between those who cannot deliver."
Livni made clear that the logic behind her idea to hold discussions now with Abbas, even though the Palestinians have not implemented the first part of the road map calling for a dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure, is to provide the Palestinians with a clear choice of what they have to gain by following the moderates, and what they have to lose by sticking with the extremists.
Livni began her speech by acknowledging Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who was also on the panel, calling him "my colleague, and I hope the future president of Israel." This comment earned the applause of the audience.
Abbas, who spoke before Livni and Peres, delivered a speech in which he condemned terrorism and the firing of Kassam rockets and reiterated that he would call for early Palestinian Authority presidential and legislative elections if the present government did not accept previous agreements and take action that would bring about the lifting of the international isolation of the PA.
At the same time, he did not talk of the need to take on extremists and indicated that he still hoped to find accommodation with the present Hamas-led PA government.
Livni, in response to Abbas's comments, pointed out that it was not only necessary for the PA government to accept the previous agreements with Israel, one of the international community's three criteria for granting it legitimacy, but that it was also necessary for it to recognize Israel and forswear terrorism - the other two criteria.
Livni said that although she understood the world's desire to see progress on the diplomatic process, "we have to show responsibility to generations to come and cannot afford to fool ourselves with false illusions." Alluding to voices in the international community saying it was unrealistic to expect the Palestinians to uproot terrorism, Livni said this was a problem that needed to be faced and tackled head on.
"There are difficult decisions to take on both sides, and fighting terrorism is one of those decisions, and we cannot afford to put this obstacle aside," she said. "I know that it is not easy. I can say it was also difficult for me to vote in favor of the disengagement plan. I voted to uproot Israelis, in order to give peace a chance. So there are difficult decisions, but the best way [forward] is to give an answer, and not to say, 'Okay this is too difficult, let's find something else.'"
Livni and Peres are scheduled to meet Abbas in separate meetings on Friday, and Livni is also scheduled to meet Jordan's King Abdullah II on Saturday.
In light of recent tensions between Livni and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem stressed that her meeting with Abbas was coordinated with the prime minister. Diplomatic officials said this meeting would likely focus on Abbas's efforts to form a unity government.
Meanwhile, at an earlier session in Davos on West-Islam dialogue, there was - according to Israeli officials - an "interesting interaction" between Livni and Pakistani Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf.
After Musharraf made his comments, the moderator of the session turned to him and said that while he was talking about reconciliation, he had the opportunity to address the vice premier of Israel.
Musharraf dodged the issue, saying that was a political question not suited for a session dealing with inter-faith relations. Nevertheless, he said that he was the person who brokered a meeting in Turkey in 2005 between then foreign minister Silvan Shalom and his Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Kasuri.
Musharraf said that future ties between Israel and Pakistan were dependent on progress on the Palestinian track. He said, however, that Pakistan decided to hold contacts with Israel in the open, not behind the scenes. Although they were just a few meters apart, Livni and Musharraf did not exchange any words.
Livni arrived at the Davos conference, which brings together leading political, business and media leaders, on Wednesday night, and will return to Israel Sunday morning.
In addition to meeting Abbas and Abdullah, Livni is scheduled to meet the presidents of South Africa, Azerbaijan and Switzerland, the prime minister of Vietnam, and the Turkish foreign minister.
In order to give a positive signal to the region, Livni called on the organizers of the conference to hold their next Mideast regional meeting not in Davos, but rather in Jerusalem.
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