Netanyahu scolds Livni over meeting with Abbas

"If the Palestinians want to negotiate, the only way to do so is with the elected government of Israel," PM tells opposition leader.

December 1, 2011 13:15
3 minute read.
Binyamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni

Livni and Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu scolded Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Thursday, protesting her meeting the day before with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu called Livni, telling her that "if the Palestinians want to negotiate, the only way to do so is with the elected government of Israel," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

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Kadima subsequently released a statement on the telephone call, reporting that Livni had told Netanyahu that "Israel's security and its ability to defend itself obligates you to immediately enter into serious negotiations supported by the world instead of causing Israel's isolation."

Livni added: "I will not negotiate in the government's place, but I will attempt to extricate Israel from its international isolation and I will work to increase its legitimacy to act militarily against terror and to strengthen the moderate camp in the Middle East - the camp that  is dissipating during this government's tenure."

Netanyahu had invited Livni to meet with him on Thursday evening in order to update him on the meeting with Abbas, but canceled the meeting immediately after it had been reported on Israel Radio. The telephone call between the rivals and their subsequent dueling statements followed shortly after.

The Prime Minister's Office said he had canceled the meeting due to scheduling constraints and it would be rescheduled in the coming days.

Livni stated at her Wednesday press conference following the meeting with Abbas that she had updated Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman about the parley. But Israel Hayom reported that Livni called Netanyahu from Amman just a few minutes before the meeting with Abbas, which the prime minister did not see as a proper method of coordinating the diplomatic initiative with the government.

The meeting represented a change in policy for Livni, who had been refraining from meeting with Palestinian officials since Netanyahu formed his government, because she had not wanted to be seen as undermining his diplomatic efforts.

For instance, when Livni met with former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel ahead of a conference at which both were speakers in July 2010, she insisted on merely exchanging pleasantries, even though they had conducted diplomatic negotiations for more than a year and therefore presumably had plenty to talk about.

Livni earned the wrath of several Kadima MKs by choosing to take with her to Amman only one MK, former finance minister Ronnie Bar-On, who has no experience with diplomatic issues but is close to her politically. She also brought with her former ministers Tzahi Hanegbi and Haim Ramon, two more political allies.

Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz, who would have been a likely choice to take with her had she not been Livni's rival, found out about the trip from the radio.

"This trip did more harm than good for Livni," a source close to Mofaz said. "She angered several MKs and party activists on the Right, who don't understand why she had to meet with Abbas two days after Peres did the same thing. If Abbas had any message for Netanyahu, it was obviously already delivered."

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