Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has distanced himself from a closed-door meeting that took place last week between Israel’s chief peace negotiator and the Palestinian Authority president following the collapse of peace talks, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman confirmed on Sunday.
“I think that it’s true that she met (him),” Lieberman told reporters, but described it as “a private meeting” which did not mean the resumption of negotiations.
An Israeli official said that Netanyahu told negotiator Tzipi Livni she could only represent herself in the meeting, not the Israeli government.
Israel suspended U.S.-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians last month after the Palestinian Authority president reached a unity deal with Hamas.
The official said Netanyahu stressed to Livni that “Israel’s position as decided unanimously by the Cabinet is that the Israeli government will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction.”
A Palestinian official said Abbas met with Livni in London on Thursday, but would not disclose the content of the meeting. A spokeswoman for Livni could not be immediately reached.
Amram Mitzna, a member of Livni’s political party, told Army Radio that Livni had met with Abbas to discuss whether to renew peace talks. He said Livni had met Secretary of State John Kerry in London before meeting Abbas.
Lieberman said “there is no stagnation” in diplomacy despite the negotiations’ formal end last month.
“The fact there are no negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t mean there aren’t other things” taking place, he said, suggesting Israel should seek out other figures, including in the Arab business world, as potential partners, and dismissing the possibility of a deal with Abbas.
“We must play along the length and breadth of the playing field,” he said.
Meanwhile, opposition leader MK Yitzchak Herzog (Labor) declared that Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) should leave the coalition, given the failure of peace talks with the Palestinians.
“I find it hard to understand what people like Tzipi Livni, Ofer Shelah or Amram Mitzna are looking for in a government in which, according to the Foreign Minister, their main role is to play checkers,” Herzog said.
When Livni joined the government coalition, it was to play a central role in advancing peace talks. Now that prospects for an agreement seem nil for the foreseeable future, calls are being heard demanding her resignation.
The Jewish Home party launched a scathing attack against Livni, saying, “Tzipi Livni has long ago lost contact with the Israeli electorate, and with her latest meetings she finally turned into a satellite that has lost all contact with the Earth.”
“Tzipi Livni voted in favor of the cessation of the contacts with the Hamas-Fatah alliance, then flew to London to violate that same decision.”