A day after the Arab League made it clear there will be no steps toward normalization unless Israel alters its actions in the West Bank, Jerusalem renewed its call for talks without preconditions.
Arab foreign ministers held out the prospect of future negotiations between Israel and member states that do not have diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, but Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa conditioned this on Israel "lifting the sanctions on the Palestinian people, halting the building of settlements and the building of the [West Bank security] wall."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in talks Thursday with visiting US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, rejected the linkage.
"The Arab states with whom we do not have relations could have been partners in this process from the very first step, but instead they stipulated conditions," Livni said, stressing that Israel remained open to dialogue.
She also said the continuing smuggling of arms from Egypt into the Gaza Strip would make it difficult for Israel to make concessions in future negotiations.
"Apart from the fact that the arms smuggling is causing the 'Lebanonization' of the Gaza Strip, it casts a shadow on the possibility of any future compromise on other issues," Livni said.
According to diplomatic sources, there has still been no official request for working group talks from the Arab League, and it is doubtful there will be any next week due to the Independence Day holiday.
Meanwhile Iddo Aharoni, the foreign minister's spokesman, has denied reports from Jordan that Livni told her Jordanian counterpart, Abdul al-Khatib, on Sunday that Israel preferred contacts with Jordan and Egypt over the Arab League. Aharoni told The Jerusalem Post that the exact opposite was true.