Israel’s Foreign Minster Tzipi Livni tried to sell the Olmert government position but ended up facing a barrage of well deserved rebukes at the Jerusalem Conference today where speaker after speaker criticized her, and the government she sits in, for selling out the holy city:
Even before Livni took the podium, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger, who usually refrains from any sort of political pronunciations, addressed the Foreign Minister directly, asking her to use her role as chief negotiator “with our enemies” to prevent Jerusalem’s division. Recent reports from diplomatic meetings and Arab negotiators have Livni engaging in wrangling over the relinquishing of parts of the capital.
“Madam Foreign Minister, you come from a family of lovers of Israel that grew up on the importance of the integrity of the land,” Rabbi Metzger said. “Jerusalem is above and beyond this conflict. Our right to Jerusalem is a proven, historic right. When the Muslims pray in the mosques on the Temple Mount, they pray with their backs to the site of the Temple; they pray toward Mecca with their backs to Jerusalem. Talking about Jerusalem harms us. If we unite for the sake of our capital, that its division cannot be discussed, we shall win it.
Livni basically ignored Jerusalem when she spoke preferring instead to talk about negotiations in general
The Foreign Minister said that maintaining such a state requires the establishment of Palestine and thereby defended negotiating even while under attack, as well as negotiating despite the knowledge that the Arab side cannot implement its commitments. “Stopping the negotiations won’t stop the terror attacks,” she said. “Terror must be answered with force, but simultaneously we must forge a process with the moderate forces. While it is true that they are still unable to implement agreements, I believe that now is the time, before it will become too late. Time is not on our side.
Livni also said she still believes the Disengagement was a good idea. “I voted in favor of the process that evicted 7,000 Jews from their homes,” she told the audience. “And I still believe this should have been done.”
She STILL believes in disengagement ? Well that is just plain silly. What does she believe in—moving the rockets closer to Sderot?
Likud Faction Chairman Gideon Sa’ar, who chaired the session on Jerusalem, commented following Livni’s speech that although the Foreign Minister sought to present herself as representing some post-political center, “there is not a word that came out of her mouth that [ultra-left Meretz chairman] Yossi Beilin would not himself say.”
Jerusalem councilman and mayoral candidate Nir Barkat told the conference that he heard nothing encouraging in Livni’s words. He said she said nothing to negate the claims of chief PA negotiator Ahmed Qurei (Abu Allah) that negotiations are underway, or the reports of a secret agreement between Chaim Ramon and Arafat-aide Muhammad Rashid.
Barkat, a Kadima Party member who has spearheaded a campaign against dividing Jerusalem that doubles as an early start for his mayoral election campaign, also lamented the emigration of Jews from the capital.
“I was involved in negotiations with Abu Mazen, Yasser Arafat, Saeb Erakat – the whole crew. The lesson I learned is this: you have to assume the other side will violate the agreement.
“You can’t get out of the Jordan Valley and just hope the Palestinian state will be demilitarized,” Gold said. “Because the day after, you will have the Philidelphi Corridor [the Gaza-Egypt border, through which weapons smuggling has been rampant –ed.] multiplied by 40 – all along the Jordanian border. You have to take into account that if you create a ‘shelf agreement’ – to be formulated today and taken down in 2012, when the situation is right – what is going to stop the international community from making us take it down in 2009?”
“There was a thing called the Road Map that required implementation of the initial commitments before any sort of negotiations would begin,” he said. “But negotiations are now taking place. So the shelf agreement will lead to the same, but with us in a much worse position.”
The former UN Ambassador said that one of the most relevant events in recent history with regard to the future of Jerusalem was the 1998 attempt by the newly-empowered Taliban in Afghanistan to destroy ancient Buddhist statues, which had existed there though many Islamic regimes in the past. “We are now seeing an escalation of religious intolerance across the Middle East,” he said. “And only if we retain sovereignty can we protect the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and, yes, the Al-Aksa Mosque. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. This is a message for the Jewish future and a message to all faiths who treasure this city.”
Jeff Ballabon fearless leader of the Coordinating Council for Jerusalem addressed the conference about the importance of Jerusalem and why it is important for the Diaspora to have a voice in its future:
“The Coordinating Council for Jerusalem was established day after [Vice Premier] Chaim Ramon announced his plan to relinquish parts of Jerusalem,” he explained. “The issue of Jerusalem is something that is being used to divide us, when the power of the city to unify the Jewish people has always been our greatest strength.”
Ballabon described the barrage of attacks, from both left and right, on the Coordinating Council, for taking such a strong stand. “ ‘Your kids don’t go to the army’, ‘You don’t pay taxes,’ ‘What right do you have?’ – These sentiments mark the success of our enemies,” he said.
He went on to warn that Israel’s policies are doing daily damage to its standing in the region: “Israel is seen as being weak – as the destabilizing force in the reason instead of the stabilizing force it is supposed to be. [US President George W. Bush] has tried, on more than one occasion, to find someone in the Israeli government to offer him a different narrative that that of Condoleezza Rice and the State Department, but the State of Israel has declined. It has refused to present an alternative to the establishment of a state of Palestine.”
Ballabon said it was a mistake to think that American Jews don’t already wield a “significant amount of power to affect what is going on” and warned that future US presidents will be less friendly to the Jewish state. “Hillary Clinton, in May of 1998, was the first US politician to call for the establishment of a state of Palestine,” he recalled.