Livni: Saudis share our concern over Iran

At Post parley, justice minister warns that failure to resolve Palestinian conflict would isolate Israel internationally.

Justice Min. Tzip Livni at the JPost Diplomatic Conference (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Justice Min. Tzip Livni at the JPost Diplomatic Conference
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Ending the Palestinian conflict would make it easier for Israel to form an alliance against Iran with moderate Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Thursday as she spoke at The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Herzliya.
“When you hear the Saudis talk about what needs to be done to prevent [a nuclear] Iran, it sounds familiar,” said Livni. “I think that you can hear that Arabic sounds familiar to Hebrew when it comes to Iran.”
Moderate Arab regimes share Israel’s concerns with regard to Iran and also want to see the United States and the international community uphold stiff sanctions against Tehran, Livni said.
She spoke on the same day that The New York Times published an article that reported that Saudi Arabia shared Israel’s policy concerns in the Middle East, specifically on Iran. It added that Saudi Arabia had privately voiced its objections to the US’s current stance on Iran, Syria and Egypt.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia clarified that the Arab League’s peace plan – which offers Israel normalized relations with 57 countries – is still on the table.
“In order to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, we need to cooperate with those [countries that understand] that Iran is a threat to them as well,” Livni said. “But unfortunately, the open conflict between Israel and the Palestinians makes it impossible, or very difficult, for them to act with Israel against Iran, when it comes to public opinion in their own state [where] Israel is still the enemy.”
Livni repeated the Israeli position that the international community must continue to economically pressure Iran until it complies with UN Security Council resolutions that call for it to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
However, she noted that it is also important to leave a credible military threat on the table.
Israel, she said, is in the midst of two conflicts, one with Iran and the other with the Palestinians, and Israel needs to act in parallel on both fronts. She said that Israel needs to continue putting the pressure on Iran while also moving forward on the peace process.
The danger of a nuclear Iran poses an additional reason why Israel has to end its conflict with the Palestinians, according to Livni, who is in charge of the negotiations during the renewed nine-month peace process that began at the end of July.
The negotiations deal with all core issues, Livni said. Discussions on those issues are happening in parallel, rather than one at a time, she added.
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Livni said. Once that happens, each leader will present the final conclusions to their people, she said.
While negotiators have agreed not to discuss the content of the talks, Livni clarified that Israel is holding fast to a number of its core concerns: that its security needs must be met – though she did not specify what those needs are – and that Palestinian refugees will not return to Israel.
A two-state solution means that just as Israel is the answer to the national aspirations of the Jewish people, a Palestinian state answers the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, the justice minister said.
The creation of a Palestinian state is the answer “for those [Palestinians] who live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, those who live in refugee camps with keys around their neck,” Livni said.
Similarly, she said, Israeli Arabs would live with equal individual rights in Israel, but their national aspirations could only be realized by a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Livni acknowledged the need to maintain Israel’s security, saying, “We are not going to throw the keys to the other side of the border and hope for the best.”
But the pursuit of peace is not merely a naïve quest or something “nice,” Livni said.
A two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is essential to Israel’s security, to its economy and to its remaining a Jewish and democratic state in the future, Livni asserted.
When it comes to Israel’s security, a powerful army is not enough, she said.
“We have the force and the power but in order to use this power we need the legitimacy to act,” Livni said.
Failure to arrive at a solution to the conflict with the Palestinians would isolate Israel on the international stage and delegitimize it, Livni warned.
“Stalemate and stagnation is something that creates delegitimization of the State of Israel and our ability to act against our enemies,” she said. “We are not and we do not want to be an isolated island.”
Livni said she supported an ideological debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But what really bothers her, she said, is that the opponents of a two-state solution have failed to put forward a legitimate alternative that is consistent with Jewish values and that would allow Israel to continue its relations with the international community.
She warned that failure to finalize an agreement with the Palestinians puts Israel at risk of having an unfavorable solution imposed upon it.
There are only two options facing Israel, she said, a onestate solution or a two-state solution, and only a two-state solution ensures a Jewish and democratic state. She noted that the goal of the ninemonth negotiating process begun almost three months ago is a final-status agreement to end all claims by both sides.
At some point, Livni said, a final decision has to be made with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Part of my responsibility is to say, ‘Enough is enough. We need to make these decisions,’” Livni said.