Opposition leader Livni urges Abbas to reopen talks with the US

Meeting in New York, top Zionist Union MK tells Palestinian Authority president not to make unilateral moves against Israel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Tzipi Livni, left, meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in New York on September 25, 2018. Courtesy)
Tzipi Livni, left, meeting with Mahmoud Abbas in New York on September 25, 2018. Courtesy)

Opposition leader MK Tzipi Livni met Tuesday night with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations, urging him to reopen diplomatic channels with the US for the sake of reaching a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Livni, who was staying in the same hotel as Abbas during the ongoing annual UN General Assembly in New York, was criticized by some Israeli lawmakers for meeting with Abbas, who has refused to sit down with Israeli or US government officials over stagnant peace talks.

Livni said in a statement she told Abbas that the PA “needs to mobilize to solve the problem in Gaza, and that instead of attacking the US, should return to talks with it.”

She also told the Palestinian leader that most of the Israeli public supports the principle of peace built on two nation states living alongside each other, but was opposed to unilateral moves planned by the Palestinians to sue for recognition and take Israel to international court over war crimes claims.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arrives at the United Nations on September 25, 2018 in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

“Seclusion, unilateral moves against Israel, and breaking of the tools [for dialogue] will be a source of weeping for generations to come,” she cautioned.

Earlier this month Abbas said he would appeal to the International Criminal Court regarding Washington’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US funding cuts to the UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency, the planned razing of a West Bank Bedouin village and what he claimed were Israeli plans to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, where it is prohibited as part of a status quo aimed at lowering tensions at the flashpoint site.

Livni, a former foreign minister, was Israel’s lead negotiator in the last two rounds of Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians, in 2008 and 2014. Both ultimately faltered, and the Palestinians have refused in recent months to engage with the US or Israel amid anger over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The embassy was relocated in May 2018 and since then the Trump administration has also cut off funding for the UN Palestinian refugee organization and shuttered the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.

On Wednesday, Abbas will host a summit of some 40 countries in New York to discuss blocking the US peace plan, according to the Axios news site. The US and Israel were not invited to attend.

On Thursday, Abbas will address the UN General Assembly shortly before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Then-foreign minister Tzipi Livni (left) with Mahmoud Abbas (right), president of the Palestinian Authority, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, September 2008 (photo credit: AP/Keystone/Alessandro della Valle)

Although publicly the PA refuses to meet or talk with US officials, media reports have suggested that some channels of communication remain open.

The purpose of her meeting with Abbas was to prevent further deterioration of ties between Israel and the PA and to revive peace talks, Livni said in the statement.

“The seriousness of the situation require all of us to look for ways to bring calm without entrenchment of anger and insult,” Livni said referring to months of violent and deadly clashes along the Israel-Gaza border during protests organized by Hamas, a terror group which seeks to destroy Israel.

She noted that she had told Abbas that “the solution to the crisis in Gaza is by way of the return of the PA to the Strip” and “not by legitimizing a fanatical and violent terror organization like Hamas.”

Mahmoud Abbas meeting with Israeli community leaders in Ramallah on Monday August 13, 2018. (Screen capture/Youtube)

There was no official Palestinian statement on the meeting, but Abbas has met regularly with figures from Israel’s peace camp, including opposition lawmakers, even while blackballing Israeli and US officials.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon criticized Abbas for not meeting with Netanyahu. Both leaders have said they are willing to hold direct talks, but both have found reasons to not hold a substantial sit-down since 2010.

“Abbas uses these meetings for his public relations. He chooses to met with people who don’t today represent the Israeli government even though he could meet directly with Netanyahu,” Danon told Army Radio.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin criticized Livni for meeting with Abbas, branding the Palestinian leader a “terrorist.”

“The meeting between Livni and Abbas is nothing less than a disgrace,” Levin told Army Radio. “Even the Americans understood that there is no point in debating with that man; he is the biggest obstacle to peace.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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