Keynote Address: Tzipi Livni
H.E. Tzipi Livni brought the event to a close with an hour long speech entitled ‘Fighting Against Terror – Fighting for Peace’, in which she discussed a range of issues surrounding the Middle East peace process and Israel’s standing on the world stage.
She began by explaining that the main threat to Israel emanates from extreme religious ideologies which reject the values of the free world. The extremists who imbibe these beliefs fight to take away the rights and freedoms that they so often claim to represent, and are a threat not only to Israel, but to all liberal democracies.
Livni argued that organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah are at odds with the beliefs of their host governments, the Palestinian Authority and Lebanese government respectively and should not be allowed to take part in the political process. Her study of many of the leading constitutions in the world showed that none allow the participation of a terrorist group, and partaking in democracy is not only about gaining votes and must include a commitment to the values that it represents. Hezbollah are an armed militia and terrorist group, yet they are political partners with the Lebanese government – making the war on terror impossible to win in her opinion.
The existence of the Salafi-jihadi ideology means that the Israeli Palestinian issue is not the primary cause of global terrorism – and solving this issue will not immediately and miraculously placate al-Qaeda. The peace process is therefore first and foremost an Israeli interest, and one which Livni believed that Israel is still committed to.
She was also concerned about about the deep misunderstandings of Israeli actions such as the blockade, as well as their military operations, all measures that are designed to stop Hamas terrorism. It is difficult for Israelis to accept some of the criticism that is leveled against them, although she made it clear that she did not want Israel to be exempt from any censure or for the international community to turn a blind eye to their mistakes.
Kadima’s commitment to peace is unwavering, and the very difficult but necessary decision to force settlers from their homes in Gaza in 2006 – a decision which she claimed that her party was willing to make again – was made in order to expedite this process. However, she was also clear that no agreement can ever be made with Hamas, recognising the Palestinian Authority, as well as politicians such as the Third Way’s Salam Fayad, as the only legitimate actors in the region. She reminded the audience that Hamas have repeatedly refused to meet the requirements of the Quartet, and this is the main reason for the current controversial blockade. Behind closed doors, she said that many Arab leaders agree that Hamas must be stopped, and she had no doubt that the Arab world has a crucial role to play in any successful solution.
She concluded by saying that both sides now owe it to future generations to put aside discussions about who has the right to an embarrassingly small piece of land, and they must now look forward and come to a viable agreement. This she firmly believed was still a strong possibility.