Livni: We're not going to throw the keys to Hamas

Justice Min. says agreement would answer security concerns; Bennett says Palestinian state in W. Bank non-viable today.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Any final-status agreement with the Palestinians must take Israel’s security needs into consideration, so that Hamas doesn’t take over territory should Israel concede it, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) told the World Jewish Congress on Wednesday morning.
“It’s clear to me as a negotiator that any agreement should and would give an answer to our security concerns. We are not going to throw the keys to the other side of the border and hope that Hamas won’t catch it,” Livni said.
Livni, who heads Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, spoke to the WJC’s Executive Committee in Jerusalem in the midst of back-to-back talks with PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, with the help of US envoy Martin Indyk.
Israel has an obligation to ensure the security of its citizens, but that would be best done through a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, Livni said. Failure to reach such an agreement is a security threat to Israel, she added.
Israel’s security is dependent not just on its army, but also on its international relations and legitimacy to act when needed, according to Livni.
The status quo cannot be maintained, and those who doubt it need only look to European steps against settlement entities and products, she pointed out. The delegitimization of West Bank settlements has expanded and increasingly includes all of Israel, Livni said.
Continued settlement building emphasizes the already existing and mistaken perception that Israel is a “colonial state,” she said.
The longer the conflict persists, the more it erodes Israel’s position within the negotiating room, she said; the change in the international community’s stance with regard to the contours of a two-state solution has not been in Israel interests.
If Israel fails to come to a final-status agreement with the Palestinians, then it could find itself in a position where the international community forces it to accept a Palestinian state on its terms and not on Israel’s, she said.
The Right opposes a two-state solution but has failed to present another viable alternative, she said.
Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) said that failure to know the best solution doesn’t mean one should execute the wrong one.
“We have to fight the battle for perception. We are doing a lousy job, no doubt. So fix it.
But do not commit suicide because it is giving you a bad [reputation]. Fix it. Do not commit suicide because of that,” Bennett said.
He has argued in the past against placing a Palestinian state in Area C of the West Bank, and he believes that Israel should annex that area.
At the WJC conference on Wednesday morning, Bennett said that history was filled with instances where common perception was wrong. “The fact that everyone knows it does not mean it is right,” he said.
The Palestinians have self governance in Areas A and B of the West Bank and should continue to do so, he said, adding that he does not want to return to the situation of 20 years ago when Israel controlled Palestinian civilian life in those areas.
But while the Palestinian Authority runs its own civilian affairs, it still cannot be considered a viable state, he explained.
“If we today declared a [Palestinian] state there [in the West Bank] it would be a failed and non-viable state; it would be a failed and hostile state. There is this obsession with a specific idea of implanting a Palestinian state seven minutes from here,” he stated.
There are other options that could be considered which do not include giving the Palestinians Area C of the West Bank, he said; also, Jordan should be involved in the conversation.
Earlier that morning, MK Isaac Herzog (Labor), who supports a two-state solution, said that there were many creative possibilities for a final-status agreement that included land swaps for the West Bank, particularly so that Israel could keep the Gush Etzion bloc and the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement.
With respect to Jerusalem, he said, there could be a plan that would keep the city municipally united, even if sovereignty is split between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
“We have to be innovative here, provided that the holy sites are under Israeli sovereignty,” Herzog said.
He believes that a final-status agreement would not be possible within nine months and that it would be better to aim for an interim deal.