Livni: Israel Must Give Up Land to Remain Jewish and Democratic

Foreign Minister calls on U.S. to boycott Durban II, says 'Israel expects free world' not to attend summit.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told visiting American Jewish leaders on Monday that Israel must give up part of its land "in order to remain a Jewish and democratic state."

"I do believe Israel is fighting for existence not only because it's the only democracy in the Middle East, but also because it's the only Jewish state in the world," Livni told a delegation of about 100 leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, currently holding its annual leadership mission in Israel.

"No refugee can enter Israel as part of the peace process," Livni said. "Their [Palestinian] national aspiration gets an answer in a different place," she added, reiterating comments she has made at least twice in the past few months.

She also told the delegation that Israel must take the initiative and come forward with its own peace plan to head off international programs. "Any plan put on the table will not be in our interest," she said.

During her address, Livni also appealed to the United States not to participate in the UN-sponsored Durban II anti-racism conference, set to be held in Geneva this April.

"Israel expects the free world not to participate in Durban II," she said, repeating Jerusalem's concerns that the meeting will be used by Arab nations and others as a forum to criticize Israel.

The U.S. State Department said it would send diplomats next week to participate in preparatory meetings for the conference, which some countries including Israel have already decided to boycott.

In a statement released late Saturday, the State Department said the U.S. delegation to the planning discussions would review current direction of conference preparations and whether U.S. participation in the conference itself is warranted.

The American Jewish delegation has already met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fisher during its visit, which began earlier this week. The delegates are also scheduled to speak with President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat over the coming days.

The group comprises 51 member organizations representing virtually all political and religious streams of America Jewry; from the Orthodox Union to the Union of Reform Judaism, as well as the American Friends of Likud and the local branches of Peace Now.

About 60 of the delegates met last week with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, before arriving in Jerusalem. Trying to defuse a controversy over his rehabilitation of a bishop who denies the Holocaust, the pope told the delegation during their visit last Thursday that "any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable."