Livni: It's Not Too Late for Israel and Palestinians to Resume Negotiations

Opposition leader tells regional cooperation conference that there is 'no status quo' in the Mideast, as ties deteriorate and Israel faces increasing isolation.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said on Monday that regional cooperation was a pointless endeavor without a viable political process, imploring both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to return to the negotiating table to reach a concrete diplomatic outcome to the conflict.

These are days in which regional cooperation has become almost science fiction, Livni said at the International Conference on Economic Regional Cooperation in Tel Aviv, adding that although regional cooperation is important, it cannot replace the political process.

The Kadima leader stressed that Palestinian economic growth is in Israels interest, and that Israel must get to know its neighbors. However, she warned of the danger of the current situation, saying that now, particularly in light of the impending vote on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations later this month, the time has come to return to the negotiating table.

There is no status quo, Livni said, adding that ties between Israel and the Palestinians is only deteriorating and leading to Israel's increasing isolation in the international arena.

Livni also related in her address to the volatility of the region, the uncertain political future of ties with Egypt ahead of its approaching elections, and the continuing uprisings and government crackdown in neighboring Syria.

There is only one 'antidote' for the current situation, Livni said, and that is moving the political process forward. It is not too late, even as the UN vote approaches.

Livni called on both Israel and the Palestinians to make the necessary compromises to advance the political process, saying that only negotiations carried out in good faith would bring about a solution that is satisfactory to both sides. She stressed, however, the importance of maintaining the Jewish and democratic nature of the State of Israel.

The interest of Israel, the interest of the Palestinians is not just dialogue for the sake of dialogue, but dialogue for the sake of peace, Livni stressed, adding that once this is achieved, regional cooperation will be able to act as a supplementary mechanism to the political process of the entire region.

In addition to Livni, speakers at the conference included Special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, Tony Blair, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, President Shimon Peres, and Daniel Shapiro, U.S. ambassador to Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was also supposed to address the conference, but canceled at the last minute.

Michal Fattal