Israeli Minister Speaks to IOP

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called last night for the establishment of a Palestinian state to include refugees who currently reside outside of Palestinian territories in an address in the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics.

“A Palestinian state is the answer for the national aspirations of Palestinians wherever they are,” Livni said, emphasizing her support for a two state solution.

Livni, Israel’s second female foreign minister, 40 years after Golda Meir, spoke last night about Israel’s regional conflicts as well as the attention it garners from the international community.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the sexiest conflict in the world, and everybody wants to be involved,” Livni said.

Livni said that she expects the international community to support Israel’s refusal to negotiate with Hamas, the party that effectively controls the Gaza Strip, because “it’s not only about Israeli security, but also about the stability of the entire region.”

Livni, who labeled Hamas “extremists,” said that Israel’s policy is to talk with the Fatah, the Palestinian party that controls most of the West Bank.

“The idea now is to negotiate with the more pragmatic leaders,” she said.

A group of protesters stood outside the Kennedy School, carrying signs objecting the Israeli government and calling for “Victory for Hamas” and “End the Apartheid in Gaza,” but Livni also received some support from the packed Forum.

“I’m very happy that Foreign Minister Livni managed to show the audience the true face of Israel and explained the dilemmas it is facing,” said Eliahu Nowersztern, an Israeli student at the Kennedy school.

When asked about the Israeli government’s policy of founding new settlements, Livni expressed some unease.

“It doesn’t help [the peace process],” she said, “but it doesn’t make it impossible for the future.”

Abigail E. Schiff ’11, a board member of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, said that Livni did not provide a satisfactory response to explain the expansion of settlements.

Echoing the voices of many left wing activists in Israel and outside of it, Schiff said “at a time when the peace process is in a shaky place, it doesn’t seem like a good time to expand the settlements.”

Livni also addressed the recent casualties among Palestinian civilians caused by Israeli soldiers. She asserted a “distinction between a terrorist who is looking for a child to kill and a soldier who defends his own people and does it by mistake. This is according to the values of the international community.”

Among the factors that contributed to the recent escalation between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, Livni mentioned the weapon smuggling that makes way through Egypt to supply militants there. The control over the Philadelphi corridor, a buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza, was handed over to the Egyptian government by Israel in 2005. Livni expressed hope that Egypt will do “a better job” in preventing the weapon smuggling, and added that “maybe we did make a mistake in leaving the Philadelphi corridor and maybe we will have to change it.”

When asked about whether she could think of a potential role for American Jews in the conflict, Livni answered simply “no.”

“I didn’t find it offensive,” said Jacob M. Victor ’09, president of Harvard Students for Israel and a Crimson editorial writer, “because she didn’t comment one way or the other. I attributed that to her being tired.”