DOHA, Qatar - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni arrived here Sunday to attend the 8th annual Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade, at which she has been invited to give a keynote speech. Senior Lebanese and Iranian officials responded by canceling their participation.
"The Arab states cannot continue sitting on the fence when it comes to support and backing for the peace process," Livni told Haaretz Sunday.
The most prominent cancellation over Livni's speech came from the Lebanese parliament speaker and leader of the Shia Amal movement, Nabih Beri. Beri was scheduled to address the forum as well, and to hold talks with senior Qatari government officials concerning the political crisis in Lebanon.
Others boycotting the conference are former Lebanese foreign minister Fawzi Salloukh, who has close ties to Hezbollah, and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami.
Livni wants to enlist Qatar and other Persian Gulf states represented at the conference in the peace process, she told Haaretz. Specifically, she wishes to convey to the Arab officials she meets that "Israel is no longer the enemy," and that "a situation has been created in which the threat is posed by Iran and extremist elements such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
"We are negotiating with the Palestinian Authority based on a final result of two nation states, and the Arab world is of great significance here," Livni emphasized. "Reaching an agreement will require historic compromises on the part of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the greater the support from the Arab states, the easier it will be for the Palestinians to reach decisions."
Livni added that PA President Mahmoud Abbas "is likely to encounter attacks from within over nearly every decision he makes regarding the peace process, and therefore the Arab world cannot go on sitting on the sidelines, but must help him. It is not only important to prepare the leadership for an agreement, but also public opinion in the Arab world, and to enlist its support."
Livni plans to use the forum to promote her initiative for an international ban on terror organizations running in democratic elections. She introduced the idea at the United Nations General Assembly last September, and has raised the matter in all her meetings since.
"Organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah exploit the democratic system to take over the country," she says.
Livni is scheduled to meet today with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and with Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, Qatar's premier and foreign minister, to discuss political matters and bilateral relations, with an emphasis on trade ties.
Apparently, she will also meet with the emir's wife, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al-Missned, and visit educational facilities that operate under her auspices. This will be Sheikha Mozah's first meeting with an Israeli government official.
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