Address by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the UJC General Assembly in Jerusalem
November 19, 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This gathering is about Tikun Olam. Tikun Olam literally means "making the world a better place."
Israel is a part of the global village which is becoming smaller and smaller and our responsibility for Tikun Olam, for making a better world is due to different reasons. One is because this is a part of our values, as Israelis and as Jews. We believe in "Love thy neighbor as thyself", and we understand that when we make things good for another person, it makes us better people.
Another reason, of course, is that it is in our interests; it is not only for better values. Israel is a part of the small global village and in fixing the world, or making a better world, we make it a better place and so Israel is also a better place to live in.
We understand today - and maybe better than before - that now we live in a world in which boundaries and borders mean nothing, for better or for worse, when it comes to global terror. When it comes to the economy, we adopted an important ideology that is connected to economic theories - opening markets to competition, globalizing our economies. Like the entire world, now we are facing the possible collapse of this ideology, and this is something that we need to address here in Israel. And this is something that the entire world needs to address.
I believe that Tikun Olam means to start doing something for yourself; to better understand what you are before you try to fix others.
Talking about ourselves, I would like to say a few words about the State of Israel and what the State of Israel is.
I know that it looks obvious, and everyone is talking about the State of Israel, but it is not that obvious any more and the State of Israel is fighting for its existence. We celebrated the 60th anniversary of the State of Israel this year, yet Israel still needs to fight for its existence, and while doing so, we sometimes forget what we are.
I believe that the world would understand Israel better if we would understand ourselves and know what we are. There is a process of delegitimization of the State of Israel as a Jewish state in some parts of the world - not in the United States of America, but you can see it in some parts of the world, especially in Europe. The world is willing to defend the right of the State of Israel to exist and these are the requirements that the Quartet demanded from Hamas. They asked them to confirm that legitimacy and to accept the right of the State of Israel to exist.
But I would like to add two more words to these demands of the Quartet. They need to accept the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Unfortunately, this is not obvious any more.
The State of Israel was born in 1947 when the United Nations decided to vote for what was called the Partition Plan, to establish the border between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. There were to be two states - one of them a Jewish state and the other an Arab state - but today the people are talking about the State of Israel, and when I ask the international leaders to add a word and to say that it is a Jewish state, there are those who are willing to say so, including president Bush and the United Nations General Assembly and there are others who are not willing to say so.
So we need to work together in Israel, throughout Israeli society, and Jewish people in the Diaspora. And we cannot forget that the ultimate goals are of the State of Israel, because it is not only about our physical existence. The other goal of the State of Israel is to maintain Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, a secure state in the Land of Israel.
These two goals of Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state must coexist and not contradict each other.
So, what does that mean, a Jewish state?
It is not only a matter of the number of Jews who live in Israel. It is not just a matter of numbers but a matter of values. The Jewish state is a matter of values, but it is not just a matter of religion, it is also a matter of nationality. And a Jewish state is not a monopoly of rabbis. It is not. It is about the nature of the State of Israel. It is about Jewish tradition. It is about Jewish history, regardless of the question of what each and every Israeli citizen does in his own home on Saturdays and what he does on the Jewish holidays. We need to manitain the nature of the State of Israel, the character of the State of Israel, because this is the raison d'etre of the State of Israel.
Sixty years have passed and unfortunately, because we did not make it clear enough in our education of the younger generation, there seems to be a new creation in the State of Israel - the new Sabra. That is a problem because being an Israeli is not only speaking Hebrew or serving in the army, which, by the way, is very important for us as a society. It is also about Jewish education and about history and tradition, because this is the common denominator, the common ground for the bonds between Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora.
We need to talk more about education and you need to do it in your communities as well. Because it is not just about us, it is not about our generation - it is more about our children and their children and their children’s children.
We need to understand that we all share the same history and values and tradition; and that is one thing. But we all need to fight today in order to meet the same challenges of Tikun Olam.
One is as citizens of the world and as members of the free world, led by the United States of America, against extremism, especially against Iran, which is a state that represents this extreme ideology, extreme Islamic ideology, that is not fighting for the rights of anybody, that is not connected to any conflict in the region, but is just creating a new conflict in the region and trying to deprive us of our right to live.
The other challenge, is of course, the need to fight for the existence of the State of Israel. We know that in bad times, in tough times, in difficult situations, you are here to help, to stand with us, to support us, and you are a part of the strength of Israel in its fight for its existence.
No less important, is the fight - the mutual fight - against anti-Semitism, that is raising its ugly head in different places in the world.
I believe that it is not only the responsibility of the Jewish people in the State of Israel to fight anti-Semitism. I believe that it is the responsibility of every leader in the world because it reflects on the society in which we exist. But since we need to lead this fight, we need to be there in order to tell them that there are things that they need to do, that there are things that are right and that there are things that are wrong, and they need to live according to the values that they are talking about.
We also decided to do something about what is called Durban 2. In February 2008, I announced that Israel would not participate and would not legitimize the conference against racism unless it is proven that is not being used as a platform for anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity. The documents which were prepared for the conference indicate that it is turning, once again, into an anti-Israeli campaign, singling out and delegitimizing the State of Israel which has nothing to do with fighting racism.
In view of this situation, I decided that Israel will not participate and will not legitimize the Durban 2 conference. We have called upon the international community not to participate in this conference, which seeks to legitimize hatred and extremism and anti-Semitism under the banner of a fight against racism.
Maybe Tikun Olam is also doing something that is not only about making the world a better place, but no less important, making this region a better place to live in.
I am thinking about the ultimate goal of the State of Israel and upholding Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state, believing in peace and security in the land of Israel. I believe that part of the responsibility of any Israeli leadership is to make every effort to try to achieve peace with our neighbors.
Fixing things, or Tikun Olam, does not mean that I believe that I can change our neighbors, the Palestinians or others. But I believe that our responsibility is to work in accordance with Israeli interests, and Israeli interests are to try to translate the vision into two states for two people living side by side in peace and security. Two states -but not only two states, not only two democracies, and not only two independent states. This is only a part of it. But two nation states in which Israel is the Jewish state and the other state is the answer, the full answer, to the aspirations of the Palestinians and it means that there will be no refugees coming into Israel.
We decided, two years ago, in Annapolis, to try to reach this goal and we tried to achieve a comprehensive peace treaty for the region. It is not an easy goal and it is not an easy task. I do not think that the goal is just to reach and achieve a piece of paper, because peace is more than a piece of paper. And since the ultimate goal is a secure Israel as a part of the peace process, this means being sure that Israeli interests, in terms of the security, are being kept, not only on that piece of paper that is going to be a peace treaty; we must also see the changes on the ground on the other side of the border. Because we cannot, and we are not going, to just throw the keys to the other side of the border.
I know that when Israel initiates something, when Israel is working to promote peace, Israel can come to the international community and say: stagnation is not our policy, stagnation is not our philosophy. We are willing to make progress in order to achieve peace, not because you demand it of us but because this is in our interest.
But, while we are doing so, we expect the international community to safeguard the legitimate interests of Israel - including security, including the understanding of what that means, two states, including the understanding of what security and standing up for Israel means when Israel demands something that is legitimate. Both sides must undergo this process, and continue this bilateral process, without trying to bridge gaps with each side separately, without putting on the table different platforms or different plans. Because the idea is that this is historical reconciliation is the responsibility of the leaderships of the two peoples alone, not of the entire international community.
I can assure you that when Israel does something like this, the international community accepts these rules. It was proven to us a few days ago in Sharm a-Sheikh when we stood there and we said: allow us to continue the bilateral talks. We need to do it ourselves and we are doing fine. We need more time and please, do not put new ideas on the table and do not impose upon us something which is not in our interests.
And when the Israeli leadership is determined to do so, the Israeli leadership can be a very good partner for the new administration in the United States of America.
Now, of course, one of our considerations, Israel and the Jews, is the gap between the State of Israel - what we are - and the image of the State of Israel outside, and a part of our responsibility is to try to bridge this gap.
We are trying to implement a branding process for Israel because we want the world to see Israel as it is, and not to just to perceive it and see it through a distorted lens.
This is why we are working together in different parts of the world, in contributing, in trying to help the international community to face the challenges it faces - the crises in terms of water, global warming, food. The State of Israel is a tiny place. The prophets who came here did not promise us water, but we have managed. We are proud of our creativity and our achievements and our technology and our agriculture, and this is a part of our contribution to the international community
And now, what is left is to translate this into a more concrete plan for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Just imagine what we can do together, and just imagine how we can change the perception and the images of Israel in the entire international community and as the Israeli song says, "Together, we are going to change the world."