Livni says Abbas must be pressured to negotiate

Justice minister voices concerns over talks, says int'l community must pressure PA to direct talks, address security issues.

May 28, 2013 16:59
3 minute read.
Tzippi Livni

Tzippi Livni 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The international community, especially Europe, must pressure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to directly negotiate with Israel, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said on Tuesday.

“It’s the only way to have negotiations,” she said.

Livni, who is in charge of the peace talks, was speaking at “Israel: a new reality?” a one-day conference hosted by The Israel Project at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

“[Abbas] needs to know that the Europeans, and the world, they want him to sit in the negotiating room, when there is hope to negotiate and hope to achieve peace,” she said.

The countries that supported the Palestinian bid at the United Nations to upgrade its status to that of a non-member state must give this message to Abbas because he said the upgrade would strengthen his ability to negotiate with Israel, Livni said.

She spoke in Jerusalem just one day after meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Amman, as part of his intense effort to rekindle the direct Israeli- Palestinian talks which have been largely frozen since December 2008.

“I truly believe that this kind of American involvement is important to both sides to enter into negotiations soon and I hope we can see, or open these negotiations in the near future,” Livni said.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel was willing to make concessions for peace.

“We’re prepared to compromise for peace, for genuine peace, this is our most fervent hope to live in peace with our neighbors,” Netanyahu said in a video taped message to the Global Forum on anti-Semitism that met in Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day at The Israel Project conference, Livni explained that Israel’s position has been that talks should be resumed without pre-conditions.

But if Palestinians insist on imposing conditions on the resumption of talks, then Israel will similarly present them with its demands, Livni said.

The Annapolis process, which took place in 2008, was based on one, simple page with a few lines that said both sides were entering into negotiations to end the conflict based on two states, Livni said.

But now there is a complex list of terms, just to start the negotiations, she added.

“We need to pay more now to re-launch the negotiations,” Livni said.

Although she could not give details of her conversation with Kerry about the resumption of talks, she did say that the Palestinians would prefer to see a map of how Israel envisions the borders of its state, based on the pre- 1967 lines, before talks begin. They also do not want a phased agreement or temporary borders.

Israel, she said, believes the core issues, such as borders, are best addressed in negotiations.

But broadly speaking, Israel believes that Palestinian refugees should be absorbed by a Palestinian state and not Israel. It also wants to retain the settlement blocs.

She added that any agreement must address Israel’s security concerns.

Netanyahu, she said, fully supports negotiations with the Palestinians, as do some of his coalition partners.

Those who oppose the talks, such as the Bayit Yehudi party, can tolerate them.

“My understanding is that [Bayit Yehudi party head] Naftali Bennett is willing to live with negotiations and this is a window that I can work with for a while,” she said.

The justice minister echoed the words of President Shimon Peres and said that Abbas can be a partner for the negotiations.

“I’m going to sign an agreement with someone with signature rights on an empty bank account, but I need his signature,” Livni said.

Those who support Abbas, she said, should be careful not to strengthen Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel and cannot be a partner to the talks.

She added that Israel must work with the international community to delegitimize Hamas, not because they are using terror, “but because there is no hope for peace with them.”

Hamas would live side by side with Israel, as an existing state, but they won’t say that Israel has a right to exist or promise to end the conflict, Livni said.

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