Transcript: Stephanopoulos Interviews Livni

The following is an excerpted transcript of ABC News' George Stephanopoulos' interview with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, for "World News With Charles Gibson" on Dec. 31, 2008.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Foreign Minister, thank you for joining us. The French foreign minister was pushing for a 48 hour cease-fire, why did Israel reject it?

TZIPI LIVNI: The idea was to have a cease-fire for humanitarian needs and the situation, the humanitarian situation in Gaza strip is quite well. The crossings are open during all this operation, and we give the opportunity to all the humanitarian aid to enter to Gaza strip. Knowing Hamas, knowing that they are going to abuse any kind of cease fire in order to put a sense themselves in a better position for the next attack. We believe that this doesn't serve Israel and those who need to fight terrorism and it's not going to help the population as well.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Israeli prime minister, your Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said that the operation is going to continue until all goals are reached. What does that mean exactly and how long is it going to take?

LIVNI: The basic idea was to change reality from the ground. Need to understand that Israel faces these terror attacks for years now, we accepted truce in the past, it was violated by Hamas including smuggling of weapons, and now we fight the results of the violation of the truce knowing that all the long range missiles, missiles that got into Gaza strip during this truce. So, we needed to change realities to stop the firing of rockets at Israel.

We need to stop the smuggling of weapons, and we need to change the equation. And the equation will change. Hamas knows now that Israel is not willing to accept a situation in which its citizens are under attack. Israel is not going to show restraint when it comes to the safety of its citizens. And the operation until now, since Saturday, shows that when the State of Israel needs to react against this kind of extremism and terrorism we are acting also by military force.

Now goals of the operation are against the ability of Hamas. We have a success, but of course it is not enough yet. And we showed that we changed the equation and we got back some of the deterrents that is so needed in this region. And now it depends on the ability of Hamas and the willingness of Hamas to stop and to give the Palestinians also hope for a better life.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the ultimately the Hamas regime will have to be replaced. Do you agree?

LIVNI: Hamas regime is a problem. It's a problem to Israel, it's a problem to the Palestinians. We know that we launched in Annapolis, a process a peace process that was initiated by the United States by President Bush and Condi Rice. We know that to create, to reach a peace treaty, with a pragmatic leadership, with a legitimate Palestinian government the only way that the Palestinians can create a state is also by changing the situation in Gaza. The idea of a two-state solution doesn't mean a terror state or an extreme Islamic state or a fake state. So the changes in Gaza and the changes of regime are needed also to create this vision of two states into, or to translate it into reality.

This is not the goal of the current operation, but at the end of the day Hamas controlled by Gaza is a problem to Israel, a problem to the Palestinians and a problem to the entire region. Because all the radical elements in the region, those who live within Arab and Muslim states are looking at Hamas. If they win, if they sense any kind of victory this means that this kind of extremism can have, can prevail or can have success in the region. And this is something that all of us can not afford.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So to complete the goals of this operation and to ultimately get a change of regime in Gaza, get a change in the Hamas regime, will that require ground forces? Will that require Israel to go into Gaza with ground forces?


LIVNI: I don't know, I don't know yet. Everything is prepared. We started with the air force, we succeeded to change the equation as I said, and we are making our decisions on a daily basis.