Livni takes Foreign Ministry reins

Livni says PA must dismantle terrorist organizations after the January 25 elections.

Newly-appointed Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni entered her new office Wednesday with a message that while Israel did not succeed in keeping Hamas out of the Palestinian Legislative Council elections, it must ensure that, after the vote, the Palestinian Authority dismantles the terrorist organizations. The PA said it needed the elections, and Hamas's participation in them, to create legitimacy to fight terrorism, Livni said at a ceremony in the ministry in which outgoing minister Silvan Shalom formally handed over control. "Our obligation is to make clear to the international community that this process will not relive the Palestinians of their obligation to fight terrorism and dismantle the terrorist organizations," she said, "because that is our only chance to take advantage of the window of opportunity that was crated with disengagement, to use the road map... to lead both peoples to a better future." Livni said, however, that the current PA elections should not be confused with a democratic process. "The elections in the Palestinian Authority should have been a part of the process of democratization," she said. "But this is not the case." She said that there was not a democracy in the world that would allow terror organizations to take part in elections. "The Europeans would not let that happen in Europe, because they have understood the lessons of the 1930s in Europe and how the Nazis took advantage of the democracy there." Livni was received warmly by the ministry's employees, who also took formal leave of Shalom. Haim Koren, co-chairman of the union, applauded Shalom for diplomatic achievements over the last three year - such as improving Israel's standing in the UN - and then went on, in the part of his speech welcoming Livni, to harshly criticize the internal situation inside the ministry. Referring to long-simmering employee bitterness over the appointment process, he said that this situation is causing irreparable damage to Israel and to the proper functioning of the Foreign Ministry. He called on Livni to immediately take matters into her hands and bring about a change in a situation that has come under criticism from the workers, the courts and the State Comptroller's Office. Shalom, who spoke after Koren, did not respond to the criticism.