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LIVNI, ARAB LEAGUE & GAZA

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: 'Arab League Initiative Has Role To Play In Aiding Palestinians & Israel To Make Necessary Compromises'

'Palestinian State Must Solve Problem of Palestinian Refugees Like Israel Provided a Home for Jewish Refugees'

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni (Photo: Amit Shabi) (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni presented a wide ranging Briefing on Israel's foreign relations when the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee was opened to the public for the first time. Livni focused on the Arab League initiative which offers full peace in return for a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. IsraCast reports that Livni was cautiously optimistic about the Arab League aiding the peace process but it could not substitute for the Palestinians at the conference table. Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas - Fatah bloodbath continues but this has not interfered with the the terrorists launch more Qassam rockets into Israel.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has welcomed the Arab League's offer to make peace with the Jewish state after an Israeli- Palestinian peace accord. But Livni also warned there were pitfalls along the way.

Livni has just returned from Cairo and the first session with Arab leaders since the Arab League approved its peace offer to Israel. After meeting President Mubarak, the Foreign Minister said the Arab League can have a 'very important role to play' in helping Israelis and Palestinians reach a peace accord. However, she declared only direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority could forge such an agreement. Although the Arab world was linking peace to a Palestinian deal, it could not represent the Palestinians at the table.There would need to be compromises on both sides and for its part Israel could not accept a pull-back to the 1967 borders, the return of Palestinian refugees or the partition of Jerusalem. It would be tough enough to hammer out an accord and so the Arab League should not to take hard and fast positions. That would make it difficult for the Palestinians to make needed compromises in the give-and-take with Israel.

Israel's ultimate goal should be to preserve itself as a Jewish and democratic state. The Palestinian state would provide the answer to Palestinian aspirations including the refugee question. Livni said that not only the U.S. but also the international community accepted this principle and she added: 'The Palestinian state will provide the full answer the way Israel provided shelter to Jewish refugees from Europe and the Middle East'. Secondly, the two-state solution meant that the Palestinian could not threaten Israel.Israel would have to be concerned with vital interests 'the day after'. For example, demilitarization, the control of terminal crossings and a Palestinian war on terrorism. And Livni added: 'The idea is not to create a Palestinian terror state'.

Although the Arab world had adopted a more positive approach to Israel out of fear of Iran and Al-Qaeda, this was not the case with the Palestinians - they had elected a terror government headed by Hamas. Moreover, Hamas was linked to Iran. On the other hand, the Palestinian pragmatists lead by President Mahmoud Abbas have showed weakness in confronting the terrorism. Summing up, Livni said all these issues would be raised when Prime Minister Ehud Olmert again sees Abbas at their bi-weekly meetings.

At the open door session, Livni was attacked by right-wing MKs Steinitz, Livnat, Hasson and Eitam for 'falling into an Arab trap'. There was no Palestinian peace partner, Mahmoud Abbas was irrelevant and Hamas, which vows to destroy Israel, is in control. They also charged that Prime Minister Olmert had been weakened by the Second Lebanon War and was in no position to conduct a peace process.They contend edit made no sense for Livni to promise more territorial concessions at this time. She replied there was also a price to be paid for doing nothing and was it conceivable that peace progress could be made without giving up more land? On the other hand, left- wingers such as Yossi Beilin and Ran Cohen prodded the government to move quicker in taking up the Arab League's offer and opening negotiations with Syria.

Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, the internal Palestinian blood-letting has worsened. Although Hamas and Fatah gunmen have been killing and kidnapping each other , this has not affected the continual Palestinian rocketing of Israeli communities across the border. Israel's security cabinet has apparently approved more targeted killing of terrorists - but will this be sufficient? Is a major IDF operation now in the works? Not likely unless one of those Qassams causes severe casualties. Livni indicated today that Israel wants to give the Arab League initiative a chance based on Palestinian moderate Abbas. A big ground operation at this time would isolate Abbas with the Palestinians and unify Hamas and Fatah. But on the flip side,in the past the Hamas-Fatah infighting has often spilled over into Israel - the two warring militias step up the rocketing of Israeli communities in order to de-escalate their own internal Fued.

David Essing

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