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Israeli Foreign Minister Holds Press Conference

Aired August 13, 2006 - 08:39   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We are interrupting HOUSE CALL right now to take you to Jerusalem where within the last hour the Israeli cabinet has approved the U.N. Resolution 1701, that calls for the cessation of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. We are going hear from the former minister and others involved in agreeing to this with the Israeli cabinet.
Let's listen in. Are we ready? Are we early? Just a little early? OK.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Just a little bit early, but we'll keep the picture up. Again, we're expected to hear from the Tzipi Livni, who is the foreign minister for Israel and we may also hear from the EU, the EU Secretary Javier Solano.

As these people come together to explain the actions taken by the Israeli cabinet today, in meetings that began at 2 to 3:00 a.m. Eastern Time this morning.

Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, (through translator): It's commitments as laid out in this resolution. And now the English.

The government of Israel announces its decision to accept United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, and will act according to its obligations, as outlined in the resolution.

(through translator): Those are the decisions made by the government, in Hebrew and English. And now, Madam Foreign Minister.

TZIPI LIVNI, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Thank you to the cabinet secretary.

I'd like to relate to the decision itself, and I will give a brief synopsis of what happened before hand, and why in my opinion, as I said, today in the cabinet session, the decision by the U.N. Security Council is good for Israel. And if it is implemented, it will change the rules of the game in Lebanon and in the relations between Israel and Lebanon.

I am not naive. I am not only familiar with what's going on in this country. I know what's going on in the Middle East. And not every -- I know that not every resolution is indeed implemented, but despite this I say with full security that the U.N. Security Council resolution is a good one for Israel. Everything -- a great deal depends on the implementation of the resolution and that is the responsibility of Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon, and of the international community.

The resolve of the international community to carry out this resolution, in full, can lead to that regional change that we all want to see. And will not enable the leaving of this resolution on the shelf as, unfortunately, happened with previous resolutions regarding Lebanon; such as, for example, the part of 1559 and 1860.

In order to understand the significance of the resolution and to see if it is indeed good, and if it does indeed safeguard the interests of Israel, we should compare it on two different levels. One -- and I will do these two comparisons.

One is to see the situation today of Israel, today, as compared to the diplomatic situation before the acceptance and passage of this resolution, and the situation before the outbreak of hostilities.

And the second question we need to ask ourselves is, are those goals whose intention was to change the rules of the game in Lebanon, and the relationship between Israel and Lebanon, as well as the internal array in Lebanon. Could they be achieved by exclusively military means?

In wake of the event and the attack of the Hezbollah on Israel on July 12th and the abduction of two Israeli soldiers. One of the goals of Israel is, of course -- and this is a goal that Israel will not ignore and will not neglect -- and that is to return the soldiers home.

In principle, I would just describe the situation in Lebanon, the situation before the attack on Israel. The situation, which we saw was one in which there was a weak central government. Alongside that government was a terror organization, which maintains an army of its own, which lives alongside the government, and is completely in control of all of south Lebanon, carries out deliberate provocations against Israel, against its soldiers and towns, whenever it feels like heating up the atmosphere.

It has sought to dictate the situation on the Israeli/Palestinian track as well. We saw the U.N. force -- a very small force, which at best served as observers -- and was supposed to maintain the quiet in the area. There is no Lebanese army in south Lebanon. The Hezbollah receives ongoing supplies of arms from Syria and Iran via Syria, via passages. And after resolution 1559, which demanded the dismantlement of the militias, as we saw a political process of internal dialogue in Lebanon, which in fact did not lead to any result.

This internal dialogue is one in which the prime minister of Lebanon dialogued with the Hezbollah, but there was no result in the field, and consequently this led to that attack on Israel. The diplomatic situation in that was resolution 1559, which remained on the shelf, which determines full Lebanese sovereignty in all of Lebanon, the dismantlement the militias, as I mentioned earlier, was there a dialogue between the Lebanese government and Hezbollah. And voices could be heard, according to which perhaps the Hezbollah is not a militia according to Resolution 1559. And therefore, perhaps, it is not necessary to dismantle it.

At the same time, consequently, or afterwards, we saw Resolution 1680, and that also looked into the non-implementation of 1559, and determined the need to set the border of Lebanon. It called upon Syria to accept the resolutions that had been passed regarding the border between Lebanon and Syria. That part of 1680 is also important and it was adopted by the Israeli military today as well.

As stated, the situation needed to change and it was necessary not only to adopt 1559, theoretically, but also its translation into action. Immediately after the outbreak of the events we set down our goals, and we asked ourselves how can we attain these main goals that lie before us.

And another question we asked ourselves was, will the military steps be able to attain all these goals? And one by one, it was -- I'm talking about a process that was carried out from the earliest days of the hostilities -- that most of the goals that we set for ourselves could not be attained exclusively by military means.

And by nature, the return of the soldiers, the abducted soldier, cannot be done militarily. The effective deployment of the Lebanese army should be carried out by Lebanon itself, and not through an action by Israel, prevention of the passage of ammunition, arms to Hezbollah can be done by the army, as well. But it was clear to us that as soon as hostilities ended the re-armament would begin, and it was important to set this as a goal where the military activity was necessary in order to weaken Hezbollah and to prepare the background for the diplomatic steps, in order to enable the implementation of the longer term goals that we set for ourselves.

The procedure of the Security Council -- and this is important to point out -- this is not a resolution that has been forced on Israel. Now we are discussing whether or we are going to adopted it. It should be important to understand that from the outset, that from the moment we realized that these goals needed to be obtained through diplomatic means, and after it became clear us to that the entire international community shared the understanding of what led to the latest outbreak of hostilities, that it was understood that it was important to implement 1559; we acted at our initiative to initiate a process of decision making that would advance the goals that we set for ourselves. And this work was done by a team headed by the director general of the foreign ministry in the foreign ministry.

The practical translation of this decision is impossible, but it should be pointed out clearly that the resolution and the need to implement Resolution 1559 appears -- and Resolution 1680 of the Security Council, but to us this is not enough, because these resolutions have already been made. And that is why we ask to break it down to practical actions in the field.

So if we are talking about the implementation or realization of Lebanese sovereignty, then we have to see the Lebanese army going south on an immediate level, and in the practical level, because the most disturbing aspect, naturally, for Israel is what is happening in southern Lebanon, which has become a base for rocket fire on Israel and a base of the Hezbollah, without any foothold of the Lebanese government there.

Since it is clear that the Lebanese government is weak and the Lebanese army is too weak to implement this resolution on its own, we ask for international intervention, by international forces, so that they would join the Lebanese army and help it to enforce the decisions of the Lebanese government in south Lebanon.

True, the forces that we wanted to see are an effective force. There was a debate on whether these forces need to be, according to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Declaration Charter -- and, in other words, that they would have authority beyond that of observers, and that's what we asked for, and that the countries that participate in the international force would be either NATO countries or countries that have an army that is capable of exercising force, when necessary.

In this context it was clear from the outset that we were talking about an international force mandated by the U.N., but we didn't want the sponsorship to be in the context of UNIFIL, which know as an force.

During the debates, the result that was obtain, is a result that is acceptable to Israel. And according to it, this is not UNIFIL, the one that we were used to seeing in southern Lebanon and Israel's northern border; in other words, a weak force of observers.

What we are getting today is an expanded UNIFIL, both in the number of people that it will involve, and a UNIFIL with a different -- a completely different mandate than what it had before; one that includes the right possibility and the authority to exercise force when needed. A mandate, which is very similar to the decisions that are made according to Chapter 7.

And let me make it clear that according to Resolution 1701, as is accepted in the context of Chapter 7, what is happening in Lebanon is viewed as a danger to world peace and those decisions or resolutions which would relate to the removal of forces, or the deployment of forces, and the embargo on arms -- would be, terms, the size was used -- in other words, this involves a mandate of the enforcement and not just of observation. Something we are used to seeing in resolutions that are based on Chapter 6.

Similarly, the government of Lebanon has declared that it will deploy its army and that it accepts the fact that an international force of this kind will join the Lebanese army. And, therefore, what we are seeing today, after the acceptance of the decision and on the assumption that it will be implemented, this could create a dramatic change in Lebanon.

Just to remind you, until the attack and for many years the only demand that Israel has -- was -- that the Lebanese government deploy its army in the south. And what we are getting now is not only the Lebanese government, but a significant strengthening of the army and the secretary-general of the United Nations also used terminology related to an enforcing force, and not just an observer force, and the decision relates to that in all of its various aspects.

At the same time, an appeal was made today to the member states of the United Nations to send relevant forces that are able to enforce the decision there. And, I hope that we will see that happening as soon as possible. At the same time, we ask that there not be a vacuum. In other words, that there not be a situation in which the IDF exits and there remains a vacuum there and the Hezbollah returns to those places that it has left, or alternately remains in those places and nothing actually happens.

And, therefore, the context of the debates in advance of accepting the resolution it was decided and accepted by the Security Council that there would not be a situation in which Israel would be as to withdraw its forces creating a vacuum, but rather that Israel would leave at the same time that the Lebanese army is deployed together with international force.

In other words, we wouldn't have a situation that the Lebanese soldier would arrive only, but we can choose and it is our decision, it is Israel's decision to move only when the force, the international force is deployed, together with the Lebanese army.

The second problem that we expected would happen, when the military campaign was discontinued, would be within a short period of time the Hezbollah would rearm -- would be rearmed by Iran and Syria, via Syria. And, therefore, we've asked that an arms embargo be imposed on the Hezbollah. The initiative in this case was an Israeli one and we placed it on the table of the international community.

During the last few hours, while the decision was being made, we asked to make sure that this would be an enforceable embargo, and an essential embargo, one that prevents the passage of arms, the transfer of arms from those countries to Hezbollah, or to anything that is not the Lebanese army. And today that embargo is part of the U.N. resolution. So that the terminology of that section of the agreement is acceptable to Israel, it is an embargo as an embargo should be.

The same goes for the request by the Lebanese government. It would be possible to supervise Lebanon's international borders, not only by means of the international force -- not only by means of the Lebanese army, but also by an international force. It is now the responsibility of the Lebanese army to make sure that arms do not enter in order to prevent the rearming of the Hezbollah.

A question was asked: Does everything now depend on the decision of the Lebanese government, regarding the international force? I'd like to point something important out, one of the problems that we faced in recent years -- and we also saw it in this set of hostilities -- is that the Lebanese government is not realizing and enforcing its sovereignty. And the concept that we would like to see is that there ultimately be two countries, Lebanon and Israel, two country, each of which understands that alongside the fact that you are a sovereign country, there is also responsibility and if that responsibility is yours to --

HARRIS: And once again, if you've been tuning in looking for "House Call," we interrupted "House Call" this morning to bring you breaking developments out of the Middle East. You are listening to the foreign minister of Israel, Tzipi Livni, who has been talking about the fact that Israel, the cabinet, the Israeli cabinet has accepted Resolution -- U.N. Resolution 1701, which calls for an end -- a cessation of the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. That cease- fire agreement set to go and take effect at 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow morning.

NGUYEN: Tomorrow morning.

She says that this resolution is a good one for Israel. She goes on to say that if it is carried out, the resolution can lead to a regional change. That's very important because that's what many sides are looking for in all of this; but the point being, right now, that the violence must stop.

The deadline on that, as Tony just mentioned, 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time, 5:00 a.m. in the Mideast. So just a few hours away. We'll see if it comes to fruition.

HARRIS: The foreign minister describing the deal is great for Israel, but also stated that Israel is not naive, understanding that much more needs to be done in the region. That perhaps, though, this puts the region on -- as Betty mentioned -- a path for change.

We'll take a break and more details on this at the top of the hour. You're watching CNN SUNDAY MORNING, on CNN, the most trusted name in news.


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