Coming Israeli elections are about saying yes or no to peace

Israel Materials 2 February 2009 21:15 (UTC +04:00)

The coming Israeli elections are about peace, and Israel must decide whether to say yes or not to it, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is running at the head of the centrist Kadima party, said Monday, dpa reported.

"The choice facing Israel in eight days time concerns peace, and the country can say yes to peace or no to peace," she told an international conference in the Israeli city of Herzliyya, north of Tel Aviv.

The "dove of peace is sitting on the window ledge, and we can decide to open the window and let it in, with all the apprehension, or slam the window shut," she said.

Israel, she continued, could become a "country of fear or a country of hope."

But, she added, she did not expect to wake up in the morning to "a new Middle East," since the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians was highly complex.

Further arguments in the negotiations could be expected, she said, but the end result of an Israeli and Palestinian state living side by side - "two states for two peoples" - was in Israel's interest.

She stressed however that Israel would not negotiate with the Islamic Hamas movement, which won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and which has so far refused demands to recognize the Jewish state, renounce violence, and honour past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Israelis vote for a new government on February 10. Polls show Livni's Kadima party trailing behind the hawkish Likud, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, which is far more sceptical and hardline about the peace process with President Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority.

Most analysts, however, think the elections will result in a Likud-Kadima government, with several other parties sitting in it as well.