It took President Barack Obama’s visit to remind Israel that it simply has to advance toward peace with the Palestinians, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry was extremely “energized” to broker progress toward a two-state solution.
Negotiations with the Palestinians are far from simple but they are the most important thing for the country, and a charismatic speech by the president had reminded Israel of this, Livni (Hatnua) said, speaking after the first meeting of Israel’s key decision-making security cabinet.
Livni, the former foreign minister who also heads Israel’s negotiation team with the Palestinian Authority, told Channel 2 that “negotiating with the Palestinians is the only way to protect Zionism,” a point she said Obama emphasized in his address to Israeli students on Thursday.
Obama’s trip to the region, and the subsequent talks this weekend between Kerry and Israeli and Palestinian leaders, might help restart talks between the sides, Livni said, adding that sometimes you need someone from outside to tell you the obvious. Kerry, she noted, is “very determined, very energetic and very committed to the two state solution.”
Livni, who returned to politics in November after resigning her Knesset seat six months earlier, said she made her comeback with the Hatnua party in order to advance a platform much like the one presented by Obama in his Jerusalem address last week.
The peace process “is far from being simple, but it’s the most important thing there is,” she said, though Israel will have to stand its ground during negotiations and protect its interests, especially those regarding the state’s security.
Regarding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday, Livni — who was foreign minister at the time of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident — said it was “better late than never.”
The Marmara was part of a May 2010 flotilla seeking to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza — imposed to prevent weapons imports by Hamas for use against Israel. Israeli naval commandos were attacked by activists wielding clubs and iron bars as they sought to commandeer the vessel on May 30 as it neared Gaza, and they killed nine Turkish activists.
The most important thing, she stressed, was to reassure the naval commandos that Netanyahu’s apology to Erdogan involved zero criticism of the soldiers who participated in the event. The commandos who boarded the ship did what they were asked to do, and they did so without any moral flaws, she said. Netanyahu acknowledged “operational errors” in the incident, she noted, precisely as an Israeli investigation had done.
“There were attempts to heal the rift before Obama’s visit,” but various events — including Erdogan’s perceived anti-Semitic comments — stalled the process, Livni told the news station.
Speaking about the spillover of the Syrian civil war into northern Israel, Livni said Israel was monitoring the “worrying” situation. The shots that hit an IDF vehicle on Sunday were disturbing, and “its an incident I hope remains an isolated one,” she said. Israel fired a Tammuz missile back at the source of the shooting, destroying a Syrian army outpost.
“Israel acts to protect its soldiers and citizens,” she said, and possible IDF retaliation for such incidents would be decided on a case-by-case basis, based on evaluations carried out by decision makers. “It’s not a topic I wish to make broad statements about,” Livni said.