FM warns of US pressure before election

Livni concerned US will push Israel into interim agreement with PA, as before end of Clinton's term.

Livni lovely 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Livni lovely 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni came out on Sunday against American efforts to have Israel reach an interim agreement with the Palestinians before the end of US President George W. Bush's term based on the diplomatic talks that she has led. Speaking at a Kadima rally in Jerusalem that was closed to the press, Livni expressed concern that the Bush administration would pressure Israel, as president Bill Clinton did at Camp David before he left office in 2001. "I purposely am not setting deadlines [for the negotiations with the Palestinians], because I think that's very bad," Livni said. "I very much don't want to be in the same situation that Ehud Barak was in at at Camp David of the end of an American administration finishing its term and trying to put pressure on everyone to bridge gaps that cannot be bridged." Diplomatic officials told The Jerusalem Post last week that the US was interested in Israel and the Palestinians codifying the progress they have made in their talks up to now so there would be a document to serve as the basis for further negotiations following the changeover of governments in the US and - possibly - in Israel. According to the officials, the document the US is interested in emerging from Israeli-Palestinian talks would be in lieu of a "shelf-agreement" that US President George W. Bush had said at last November's Annapolis Conference he hoped to see completed by the time he left office in January 2009. Olmert has reportedly expressed interest in drafting such a document, but Livni has blocked this. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to convene a trilateral meeting in Washington at the end of the month, with Livni and the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Ahmed Qurei, but it not expected to lead to the drafting of a document. Kadima officials speculated that the reason Livni was so adamant in blocking the drafting of such a document was that she was afraid that if the concessions she has already agreed to were revealed before the mid-September Kadima race, she could lose support to her chief rival, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. In her speech to Kadima activists, Livni took credit for convincing the American administration to rule out the return of Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel in return for Israel's 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. She called that commitment, which Bush made in his pre-disengagement letter, "Israel's greatest diplomatic achievement of the last decade." A Kadima activist criticized Livni at the event for not quitting Olmert's government after the Second Lebanon War or in the wake of the latest allegations of corruption against him. She defended herself by saying that the moves she made and chose not to make were right for the country at the time. "If I would have left then, people would have applauded and it wouldn't have changed anything," Livni said. "Now I said what had to be said and processes are taking place. Judge me not just on what I say but on what I do in my own way." Livni vowed that if she won the September primary, she would be able to rehabilitate the party and lead it to victory in the next general election. "We failed once, and I don't intend to let us fail again," she said. "Kadima made promises and didn't keep them. Kadima needs to fix itself from inside and then take it to the public. According to the polls, if we make that change, we can continue to lead the country."