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Livni, Peres, Abbas Share Visions for PA State at World Forum

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tzippy Livni, Shimon Peres, and Mahmoud Abbas shared their visions for a two-state solution within the disputed borders of Israel.
By Alex Traiman
First Publish: 1/26/2007, 8:35 AM / Last Update: 1/26/2007, 8:45 AM

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzippy Livni made the formation of Palestinian state her top diplomatic priority during her speech at the forum of world leaders. According to Livni, the formation of a state for the Arabs within the biblical territories of Judea and Samaria is "not an illusion. It's there. It's achievable."

"I would like to negotiate, to speak, to meet, to talk," Livni said, signaling an Israeli desire to yet again restart bilateral peace talks. "There is nothing I want more. ... This is part of our dream; this is part of our goal."

While acknowledging that terrorism must be reigned in for a two-state solution to be viable, Livni compared any future decision by the Palestinian Authority to stop terror with the Israeli government’s decision to expel 10,000 citizens from their homes during the Gush Katif Disengagement of August 2005.

"There are difficult decisions to take on both sides, and fighting terrorism is one of those decisions, and we cannot afford to put this obstacle aside. I know that it is not easy," Livni said. “I can say it was also difficult for me to vote in favor of the disengagement plan. I voted to uproot Israelis, in order to give peace a chance. So there are difficult decisions, but the best way is to give an answer, and not to say, 'Okay this is too difficult, let's find something else.'"

The Israeli government has already formed a committee to study the ability to remove as many as 100,000 Jewish residents from their homes in the areas considered for the creation of a Palestinian State.

Livni cautioned PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas against compromising with extreme elements within the Authority, labeling Abbas one of the "moderate" forces within the PA. The term often is used despite calls by Abbas at a Ramallah Fatah rally last week for arms, ostensibly received to protect him and his Fatah faction from Hamas, "to be turned against Israel," which he referred to as "occupying forces."

Livni added in her address that PA Arabs currently living in Judea and Samaria should remain in a new state to be created on those lands, as opposed to the PA demand that they be allowed to find homes within all of Israel.

While Abbas also stressed his commitment to return to the negotiating table, he reiterated long-standing Arab demands that other Arabs be resettled in Israel, and not in any newly created Palestinian nation.

"The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is one of the most serious conflicts that require a solution," Abbas said during his address. "I am fully convinced that despite all the difficulties, an atmosphere conducive to the resumption of the peace process exists, one that could lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state."

He added that a "just solution" must be found to solve the "refugee crisis," stating that "refugees wishing to return to their homes ... should be permitted to do so at the earliest practical date."

Abbas stressed that a permanent resolution is necessary to end the long-standing conflict, as opposed to any temporary decisions, urging Israel to begin discussing issues of final border status and insisting on the Israeli borders of 1967 as a starting point.

"We have the road map, a road map that includes the Arab initiative as well as President Bush's vision regarding the two-state solution," Abbas said. "What is required now, in all honesty, is for us to trace the beginning and the end of this peace process."

Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres also addressed the forum, expressing a vision of shared economic cooperation between Israel and the PA.

He said Israel and the Palestinians should work together alongside Jordan to stimulate foreign investment in the region.

Peres stated that Israel, Jordan and PA have already agreed in principle "to take the whole length of the frontier," a 500 kilometer-long strip along the current Israeli-Jordanian border, "and convert it into an ongoing economic zone."

"We cannot save the Dead Sea unless we do it together. We cannot build new industry ... unless we do it together," Peretz added.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has already announced plans to gather the Quartet committed to Middle East peace (US, UN, European Union and Russia) in Washington D.C. at the beginning of February. She will return to the Middle East for a summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Abbas, two weeks later.