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Former Israeli cabinet minister discusses two-state solution

November 20, 2017

By Jenna Wang C’19

On November 16, former Foreign Minister of Israel Tzipi Livni spoke at Penn Law about peace negotiations and the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The event, titled “Two States for Two Peoples Solution and an Evolving U.S. Foreign Policy,” took place as part of Penn Law’s Global Leadership and Public Policy Speaker Series. The talk was sponsored by Penn Law’s Office of International Programs, Penn Law Students for Israel, and the Perry World House.

Livni, a prominent Israeli politician, has held a multitude of top positions in her country’s government, including Minister of Foreign Affairs, Acting Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, and Head of the Israeli team in negotiations with Palestine in 2008 and 2013. A former real estate lawyer, she entered politics after witnessing the Oslo Accords in 1993 and feeling compelled to help bring peace to the region.

Livni spoke about her vision on the future of the state of Israel, as well as her support for the “two states for two peoples” solution.

Livni strongly supported the idea of a Jewish democratic state, pointing to national values and identity that give Jews a right to form an independent state. Arguing that Jews and Palestinians were two separate people, she proposed that the best way to solve the conflict was to create two separate states for the two peoples.

Livni rejected the notion that the conflict was a complete zero-sum game, saying that you could be pro peace and represent mostly the interests of both sides. She emphasized the need to end the conflict first, before any other actions were taken, and that the only way to do this would be to have a two-state solution.

“We are Zionists, and we worked for many years to have a state of our own in which we express our own rights as a nation,” Livni said. “This is the national conflict between us and the Palestinians. It’s not just about reaching an agreement, but ending the conflict.”

Livni also touched upon the issue of the 1967 line, or the Green Line, a boundary between Israel and Palestine that was established in the Armistice Agreement of 1949 but discarded since the Six-Day War in 1967. Livni opposed international pressure for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 line, saying that if Israel and Palestine were to revert back to the historic boundary, there would be no continuous Palestine state due to shifts in Jordanian and Egyptian boundaries in the area since.

Another border issue was the Israeli West Bank barrier, built by Israel for security reasons against terrorism. Livni defended the existence of the wall, saying that it was a step towards the solution, but acknowledged that many parties were against it, including right-wing Israelis, Palestinians, and the United States. She recalled discussing the wall during an international conference in Berlin, where the history of the Berlin Wall stood as a fitting metaphor for Israel’s own barrier.

“It is going to take us years to break this wall, but first, let’s define the border,” Livni said. “Israeli is a state without borders. It’s unacceptable.”

The former cabinet minister negotiated twice with the Palestinians in 2008 and 2013, and both times the two states were unable to come to a resolution. However, Livni said, she would not give up on the two-state solution.

“Basically, it’s not about who is more right or whose cause is more just,” she said. “It’s about finding a solution.”

The solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will ultimately involve a compromise between two highly politicized sides. Livni emphasized the need for both sides to set aside their conflicting historic narratives and move forward to a practical agreement for the future, with the United States and President Donald Trump potentially playing a role in mediating these discussions.

“The leaders that would sign an agreement are those understanding that the price for their people for not having an agreement is higher than the political price that they would pay for signing an agreement,” she said. “If you are a true leader and not a politician, this is what [you need] to do. Maybe this is the last chance to make peace.”