The Israeli government must either renew peace talks with the Palestinian Authority or brace for a diplomatic backlash from the international community, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said Saturday.
In this post-war reality, “either we resume negotiations with the Palestinians to reach a permanent agreement, winning the world’s support, or we will find ourselves isolated, talking about not wanting to talk to those who have an agreement with Hamas [a reference to the unity pact with the Palestinian Authority], while having an agreement with Hamas [Israel’s recent ceasefire deal negotiated in Cairo],” she told Channel 2.
Livni criticized PA President Mahmoud Abbas, saying he was difficult to negotiate with and took actions in the international sphere she did not agree with, like threatening to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague. But she stressed that if the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to engage Abbas in talks, it would face “a diplomatic or legal intifada following this [military] operation.”
Israel is likely to see see more calls for investigative committees like the one set up by the UN Human Rights Council, she said, “headed by judges who have pre-determined outcomes in mind,” a reference to William Schabas, heading the UN probe, who previously called for Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres to stand trial at the ICC.
“Thos who do not seize the opportunity to open diplomatic talks only strengthen Hamas’s regime in Gaza,” she said, directing her comments at Netanyahu.
“And those who have called for using force [in Gaza] and objected to the unity agreement [with Hamas] are the same people who, throughout the operation, have hoped — and still do — for Abbas to retake control of the Gaza Strip,” she said.
Pointing to what she termed the “absurd” situation of having Netanyahu conduct indirect negotiations with Hamas but refuse to talk to Abbas as long as his unity pact with Hamas is intact, Livni reiterated her call for the prime minister to “cooperate with those who recognize our existence, who shun violence and honor past peace understandings.”
Livni said that in the absence of peace negotiations with Abbas, Israel’s southern residents will inevitably be doomed to another round of violence and more rocket fire.
“What was proven in this operation is that military force cannot change the reality in the long term. Military force against Hamas is important but it isn’t enough. There will inevitably be another round in a year or two,” she said.
Livni added that Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has proven that it belongs to the axis of moderates in the region, “people whom we can work with, who work as a counter to the crazies who behead people and use children as human shields [such as the Islamic State and Hamas].”
“We must seize this opportunity to talk to them, and those who refuse to do so condemn the residents of the south to another round of violence,” she said.
On Friday, Netanyahu said that Operation Protective Edge brought with it a diplomatic opportunity but remained firm that Abbas must first sever ties with Hamas.
“There is now a reality that allows us to act according to our security interests on one hand and [on the other], start a new, responsible diplomatic initiative based on this new reality,” he told Israel’s Channel 10.
Netanyahu said he hoped Abbas would choose Israel over a unity government with Hamas and suggested that if this were the case, he would be willing the pursue a peace deal in talks with the PA.