In a move likely to infuriate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday met with PA Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki in London, high-ranking Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel.
Livni has held talks with several senior Palestinian Authority officials since the formation of a Palestinian unity government 10 days ago, the sources added. This, despite Israel’s recent decision to shun the PA in response to the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal and the new government, and the uproar caused by Livni’s meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in London a month ago.
According to the sources, Livni, Israel’s chief peace negotiator, has recently held phone calls with several PA officials, including the head of intelligence Majed Faraj, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and Fatah official Jibril Rajoub.
Livni met with al-Maliki Thursday on the sidelines of the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London. A diplomatic official present at the summit sent The Times of Israel a photo from the meeting.
The Palestinian officials did not rule out a second meeting between Livni and Abbas in the coming weeks.
Livni’s office did not respond to the report.
Livni and her Palestinian interlocutors have reportedly discussed the recent failure of peace negotiations and the possibility of their renewal, as well as matters such as Israel’s announcement that it will construct 1,500 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel said that announcement was a response to the establishment of a “Palestinian terror government.”
The justice minister’s meeting with Abbas in London last month was coordinated in advance, and Netanyahu was aware of it. After word of the meeting got out, Netanyahu’s aides claimed the premier had made it very clear that Livni was representing only herself and not the government of Israel. Furthermore, they leaked reports to the media that Netanyahu had considered firing Livni over the meeting. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, a Netanyahu loyalist, said the prime minister had treated Livni “with a certain amount of mercy,” but that if she defied him again, “she will no longer be a minister.”
Livni subsequently denied that she had been scolded by Netanyahu over her meeting with Abbas, and said that she would meet with the Palestinian leader again, if and when necessary.
With the establishment of the Palestinian unity government, based on the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the Israeli security cabinet decided that no negotiations would be held with a government backed by Hamas, though it has not banned contact between Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Following last month’s meeting with Livni, Abbas told The Times of Israel that the PA did not intend to join any further international treaty organizations beyond those it has already applied for, unless Israel takes actions that harm the Palestinians.
Livni, who voted with the rest of the security cabinet to suspend negotiations because of the new Fatah-Hamas unity pact, said earlier this week that Israel must differentiate between the new Palestinian government and Hamas.
“We must fight Hamas and not the Palestinian government,” she said. “We must work with the Palestinian government according to Israeli needs and interests, and demand (they act) responsibly.”
Livni added that Abbas’s new government had been formed in accordance with the conditions of the Middle East Quartet — recognition of Israel, adherence to past agreements, and rejection of terrorism and violence. She also called Israeli settlements a “security liability.”