Livni meets Ramon amid report he tried to derail talks

Ramon reiterated his denials of last week’s report that he told Saeb Erekat not to enter into direct talks.

Livni close up 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Livni close up 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
With international pressure growing on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate directly with Israel, Kadima council chairman Haim Ramon met on Friday with the Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni to discuss allegations he tried to convince the PA to reject such talks.
Sources close to the two confirmed that in the course of the conversation, Ramon reiterated his denials of last week’s report that he told the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat not to enter into direct talks.
A man who allegedly heard the July 8 conversation between the two in the capital’s American Colony Hotel said Ramon told Erekat: “There is no point in starting direct talks, because Bibi won’t agree to anything.”
Israel Radio’s Ayala Hasson described the witness as reliable and not politically motivated.
When the story of Ramon’s alleged comments broke, Livni said that she would meet with him on Friday, after he returned from a visit overseas.
The meeting with Erekat, he told her on Friday, had been public and not hidden, and he never encouraged the Palestinians to avoid direct talks.
He told Livni that the comments that he made in such meetings were no different than those that he has made in numerous public venues.
Ramon also denied reports that he told Erekat that he was speaking to him as an emissary of President Shimon Peres, telling Livni that he does not hold such meetings as a messenger from anyone.
Livni’s office emphasized over the weekend that Kadima as a matter of principle is not trying to run any alternative peace process in place of the elected government, and that Livni herself is not an alternative channel.
Her office said, following the Ramon-Livni meeting, that “meetings by Kadima members, including Ramon, with Palestinian Authority officials who oppose terror and work to advance peace arrangements with Israel – [meetings] of which Livni is aware – are designed to maintain a missing link today between the [two] nations and to advance cooperation and understanding in a way that will aid in reaching a peace arrangement.”
Kadima, her office said, calls on the prime minister “to take responsibility for Israel’s state today instead of placing the blame on others for Israel’s decline to one of the worst diplomatic states in its history and making capital out of an open meeting between an Israeli and a Palestinian.”
Calling to return to the “negotiations that Livni and Abu Ala [former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei] held only a year-and-a-half ago,” Kadima officials said that picking up the talks where they left off then would bring a speedy end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.