By Mick Krever, CNN
A peace deal with the Palestinians would allow Israel to keep its “values as a Jewish, democratic state,” chief Israeli negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“The best choice is to divide the land and to keep the state of Israel – maybe smaller – but with our values as a Jewish, democratic state living in harmony – a secured state,” Livni said from Washington.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Washington to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama and discuss, among other things, America’s renewed push for Middle East peace.
Secretary of State John Kerry is spearheading an effort to have Israel and the Palestinians reach a framework agreement – a foundation upon which a permanent deal could be negotiated.
“I’m sure that [neither] us [nor] the Palestinians are going to be in love with it,” Livni said. “But I hope that both of us can live with it, move forward, and this is something that can create trust and basis for negotiations.”
Sitting next to President Obama in the Oval Office on Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not strike an optimistic tone.
“The 20 years that have passed since Israel entered the peace process have been marked by unprecedented steps that Israel has taken to advance peace,” Netanyahu said. “When you look at what we got in return, it’s been scores of suicide bombings, thousands of rockets on our cities fired from the areas we vacated, and just incessant Palestinian incitement against Israel.”
President Obama, in an interview with Bloomberg View’s Jeffrey Golberg ahead of the meeting, described Palestinian President Mahmoud as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians have ever had.
“It’s not an easy task for any leader, on the Israel side or the Palestinian side,” Livni said. “It’s about the bold, courageous decisions that both of them need to make for the sake of their own people – Netanyahu for the future of Israelis and Mahmoud Abbas for the future of Palestinians.”
Amanpour asked if Livni was optimistic about the process.
“I cannot say that I’m optimistic or pessimistic. I’m praying that it will work. I think that this is an historical moment, and we shouldn’t miss it.”
Israel needs to face up to the growing BDS campaign – boycott, divest, and sanction – against Israel and its products.
“Me as an Israeli leader – I cannot turn a blind eye and to say it’s not there,” she said. “We need to face it, and I believe that making an agreement with the Palestinians is part of the answer that we can give to this trend in the international community.”
But peace negotiations, she said, are not a zero-sum game “in which without framework Israel loses and the Palestinians win. It’s lose-lose situation for both of us.”
The American and Israel presidents also discussed Iran, and ongoing negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.
When world powers and Iran reached an interim deal last November – talks about talks, not unlike the potential Palestinian agreement – Netanyahu derided the development as a “historic mistake.”
That deal, in large part a confidence-building measure, had Iran freeze parts of its nuclear program in exchange for the temporary and reversible lifting of some of the vast sanctions the West has imposed on Iran.
In the Oval Office on Monday, Obama reiterated his “absolute commitment” to preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon.
“Iran is a risk not only to Israel, but to the entire world,” Livni said.
“We are not against negotiations with Iran, but we have some concerns whether lifting some of the sanctions and giving legitimacy to Iran … can create a situation in which we cannot turn the wheel back in order to push them not to have a nuclear weapon. So these are the concerns.”
“So we are sharing the same goal with some differences about the best way to achieve it.”