Justice Minister Tzipi Livni responded Monday to criticism over her meeting Thursday in London with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that she would keep extremists from exercising control over government activities.
“It’s clear to me that the extreme right doesn’t like the activities of our government. We are blocking the possibility of them establishing the state of Yitzhar,” Livni said according to Channel 10.
Yitzhar, a settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus, is home to some of the most radical elements in the settler movement, and has been a flashpoint for violence between right-wing activists and Israeli security forces.
“The conflict is still here, and direct negotiations are preferable,” she said. “We are not ignoring the problem of the agreement between Fatah and Hamas, but there is no option of not listening and not being heard.”
Livni came under fire over the weekend for meeting with Abbas after Jerusalem cut off diplomatic contacts with the Palestinians following the collapse of peace talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Livni she would only represent herself in the meeting and sources in the right-wing Jewish Home party called on Livni to quit the ruling coalition on Saturday night, saying that her meeting was in breach of official policy.
“Tzipi Livni long ago lost all contact with the Israeli voter, and in her recent meetings has finally become a satellite that has lost all contact with earth,” the party said in a statement. Livni, the party said, “voted in the cabinet in favor of freezing the peace process due to the Fatah-Hamas pact, and then flew to London to contravene that selfsame decision. If she finds it difficult to fulfill the cabinet’s decisions, the exit door is open.”
Thursday’s meeting was the first between the PA president and a senior Israeli official since peace talks collapsed last month. The encounter came on the heels of separate meetings, in London, between the two and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Livni, Israel’s chief envoy to the peace talks, stressed to Abbas the gravity of his having established a unity government between his Fatah party and Hamas, according to Channel 2 News. In the wake of the unity pact, Israel’s key security cabinet, of which Livni is a member, voted unanimously to suspend negotiations with the PA, saying Israel could not hold peace talks with a government supported by Hamas, an Islamic terrorist organization committed to Israel’s destruction.
Livni’s office stated later Friday that Netanyahu knew in advance of the meeting.
Channel 2 commentator Amnon Abramowitz said, however, that unidentified sources in Jerusalem were saying that the prime minister “is furious” with Livni over her initiative.
The PMO said in a statement that the meeting was not held by Livni in her official capacity.
Kerry met Wednesday with Abbas and Thursday with Livni, just weeks after the top US diplomat’s relentless bid to broker a peace treaty came screeching to a halt.
American officials said that the meeting between Kerry and Livni was unplanned, and that it was spontaneously put together since both parties happened to be in London.
Livni was in London for a previously scheduled trip, and US officials have been keen to downplay any hopes of a breakthrough in the stymied peace process.
Kerry coaxed the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in July 2013 after a three-year hiatus, and both sides agreed to keep talking for nine months. That period expired at the end of April, and the talks collapsed with each side blaming the other for major breaches of the negotiating agreements.
AFP contributed to this report.