May 4, 2008
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: (In progress) the ongoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We shared the ideas for (inaudible). Later we have another meeting, trilateral meeting with Abu Alaa. So Secretary Rice is going to discuss with the two chief negotiators on the Israeli and the Palestinian side the situation.
And of course, we’re going to continue the negotiations in order to reach an understanding that can create or translate the vision of two states with two people sitting side by side in peace and security into something which is complete and can be implemented.
And this is what’s going on. This is what we discussed today.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you for welcoming me here. We have discussed the ongoing negotiations coming out of Annapolis. Earlier I had an opportunity to talk to about the other tracks of Annapolis, improving the lives of Palestinians on the ground, talking about Roadmap obligations, because it’s very important that the three tracks move together to give support.
We want to see an agreement by the end of the year subject to Roadmap implementation. So I'm here to talk about all of these elements. I will shortly, very shortly, which is why we will have to be quick in this press conference, meet with Foreign Minister Livni and with Abu Alaa of the Palestinian Authority. And we’ve had very good discussions, and we expect them to continue.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, the first question for you. You came here. We learned, to confirm the schedule, the (inaudible) schedule of the visit of President Bush in Israel soon. And two questions. One, were you surprised by the developments that we just heard from the police investigation -- the new investigation of Prime Minister Olmert? This is first question. And if the question goes about the development, which is quite surprising, is it possible that the negotiations with the Palestinians will continue as planned, or will it be that investigation will be detrimental to the process to a point where it may be at risk?
And the question to Minister Livni, (in Hebrew): What do you think of the new investigation of the Prime Minister? What is the significance of this investigation to the continuation of the [Annapolis] process, the government, and Prime Minister Olmert?
SECRETARY RICE: First of all, the President is very much looking forward to his visit here in 10 days or so to Israel. We are very excited to have a chance to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding. I think it is only proper for the American President -- the United States was the first country to recognize Israel some 11 minutes after it was established. And so I think it’s going to be a quite joyful day.
The matters concerning the investigation are internal matters for Israel. I can only say that I had a very good discussion last night with the Prime Minister. I've had very good discussions today with the Foreign Minister and Defense Minister, and I expect those to continue as we seek to move forward on the Annapolis process.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: (In Hebrew) It’s no secret that I’m a big believer in the separation of powers, in accordance with Israeli democracy, and in the principle that politics not interfere with the activities of law enforcement.
The only correct thing to do at this stage is to allow law enforcement authorities to carry out their responsibilities.
I certainly have full confidence in the law enforcement system and have no doubt that they will carry out their responsibilities without bias. I hope they will do it quickly and do away with the uncertainty.
We are here at the midst of very important discussions, that is, the negotiations I’m conducting. I held my meeting today with the Secretary of State about these issues, and I intend, of course, to continue with it, and that’s what we’re going to do today and also in the coming days.
QUESTION: This is a question for Mrs. Livni. The Quartet on Friday called on Israel to “freeze all settlement activity including natural growth.” I would like to know if you can tell us publicly now that the Israeli Government is ready to comply with this Roadmap obligation.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: According to Annapolis, we decided to launch negotiations of items that would exist between Israel and the Palestinians while simultaneously to address the obligations of the two sides according to the Roadmap. And at the end of the negotiations, of course, the implementation is subject to the Roadmap.
I would like to say very clearly that while negotiating the final status issues, the borders and the (inaudible) of the future Palestinian state, clearly we showed, especially in the disengagement plan (inaudible) that settlements were not obstacles when it comes to -- well, it was not the peace process but when there was a need for Israel to withdraw and to send a message of peace with this matter also of the settlement.
So clearly we need to address the situation on the ground on one hand, and Israelis going to implement its obligations according to the Roadmap. There is no new units of new settlements. According to the Israeli Government policy, Israel stopped to confiscate land from or new land from Palestinians in order to build settlements or to expand settlements. I know that there was some activities before that led to some frustration and maybe uneasiness on the Palestinian side that led to kind of suspicious that Israel had a hidden agenda on this. But I can assure you that Israel has no hidden agenda. Our idea is to reach an understanding, to find a way to define the future bodice of the Palestinian State when, of course, giving an answer to Israel’s security needs and to other issues that are topic of concern, including the need for the country by defining the future for the Palestinian state.