Foreign Ministry officials rejected the initiative proposed by France and Spain to resuscitate the peace process and renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Thursday.
“The European Union initiative is not supported by the international community as a whole,” the officials explained Israel’s rejection of the plan. In addition Israel prefers direct dialogue with the Palestinians over mediation by foreign elements “that will only complicate matters.”
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni addressed the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis during the opening ceremony of a Kadima branch in Rishon Lezion. “Israel will fight the terror threat with the full determination required,” Livni stressed. “We have learned the disparity between the slogans and the reality, and we can’t forget that reality is more complex,” she said.
“Parallel to our duty to provide security and protection to the citizens of Israel, we must communicate the message to moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority that it is time they take responsibility for their lives and for what is going on in their territory. Our aim is not revenge but to advance a process that can bring true peace and security,” Livni said.
“I do not accept the comparison between terror attacks and our defense operations,” Livni declared, addressing the extensive criticism due to the high civilian death toll in the Beit Hanoun strike last week.
“The terror groups aim their acts at the civilian population, at kindergartens, and think of civilian casualties as a great victory. We do all we can to avoid hitting civilians and we educate our children not to hurt innocents. This is the complex reality we must face. I know that most Israeli citizens understand the complexity of the situation and don’t follow empty slogans,” she said.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres also commented on the chances of Israel reaching agreements with its neighbors: “We tried to advance peace agreements four times; twice we failed to achieve them – with Syria and the Palestinians – because of them, not us. They are divided, have no army, no diplomacy. The victim killed Wednesday in Sderot is a painful loss for all of us, and anyone looking at the Palestinian side understands that there is terrible collapse. Against this collapse, Hamas is making compromises. Hamas has understood that if it continues with terrorism and doesn’t recognize Israel – it will stand alone.”
Earlier Thursday French President Jacques Chirac announced that his country, in cooperation with Spain and Italy, are drafting a new diplomatic initiative for the Middle East. Chirac said that he held a conference call Thursday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, in order to reach an agreement on an initiative aimed at finding a solution for the Palestinian problem.
The new plan includes five elements: An immediate ceasefire, the formation of a Palestinian unity government that would be able to receive international recognition,
prisoner exchange between Israel and the PA (including the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers), talks between the Israeli prime minister and his Palestinian counterpart, and an international force that will deploy in Gaza and reinforce the ceasefire.
Chirac noted that that in the meeting he held Thursday morning with Zapatero, the two decided to take a joint initiative, as they sharedthe same views regarding the crisis in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Zapatero said that the program will be presented before the European Union next month, and expressed hope that it will win the support of Britain and Germany as well.