Livni lambastes Abbas’s ‘unacceptable positions’

Top negotiator says Palestinians to pay for leader’s hardline stance; contradicts PM, says not all settlements to remain after peace deal

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

Israel’s chief negotiator with the Palestinians, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, on Saturday lashed out at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying in an uncharacteristic critique that if he stuck to his “unacceptable positions” the Palestinians would suffer the consequences.

Speaking in an interview with Channel 2, Livni said Abbas’s positions were “not only unacceptable to us but to the whole world, and if he continues to stick to them, then the Palestinians will be the ones to pay the price.”

Abbas has recently stated that no peace agreement would be possible without all of East Jerusalem [including the Old City] as the Palestinian capital, has staunchly refused to recognize Israel’s self-definition as the state of the Jewish people, and has demanded the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel proper, saying nobody but the refugees themselves could negotiate away that right.

Livni’s highly unusual warning — she has long publicly endorsed Abbas as a partner for viable peace terms — echoed statements made by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday. Speaking in Davos, Kerry said that “If [the Palestinians] fail to achieve statehood now, there’s no guarantee another opportunity will follow anytime soon.” He also emphasized that in order for the talks to yield results, leaders on both sides would have to make “courageous decisions necessary to embrace what would be fair and what would work.”

Despite her grim assessment of the Palestinian Authority president’s negotiation stance, Livni said she hoped Israel and the Palestinians would be able to reach an agreement in the three remaining months of talks, which began in July 2013. Kerry and the two sides had agreed on a nine-month negotiating period, which ends in May, though the US secretary is now trying to finalize a new “framework” agreement to serve as the basis for talks extending beyond that deadline.

Livni also related to the Israeli public’s low expectations of a peace deal emerging from the talks, saying: “The role of a leader is to create a reality and not to be influenced by polls.” According to a recent poll by Channel 2, 87% of the Israeli public believes the negotiations will not yield a peace agreement.

The US State Department said at the weekend that Washington is working on a framework agreement “based on our discussions with both sides and the parties leading up to this point” which “will have details setting the parameters for the discussion on all of the issues.”

Kerry alluded to the possible provisions of a framework agreement in his speech at the World Economic Forum on Friday: “An independent state for Palestinians wherever they may be; security arrangements for Israel that leave it more secure, not less; a full, phased, final withdrawal of the Israeli army; a just and agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem; an end to the conflict and all claims and mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Palestinian people and the nation-state of the Jewish people.”

Livni, who heads the coalition’s centrist Hatnua Party, also appeared to contradict statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) in Davos on Friday, in which he asserted that “I do not intend to evacuate any settlements, I don’t intend to uproot any Israeli.” It was not entirely clear from the context whether Netanyahu was referring to all settlements or only those in the Jordan Valley.

“Most of the Israelis reside in settlement blocs which will be part of the state of Israel in the future, and they will remain in their homes,” Livni said. “Concerning the rest, we’re conducting a dialog.”

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