Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA), is usually viewed among the Israeli public as willing to concede much more than Israel is willing to give.
Nevertheless, she came under fire from the PA on Sunday for remarks she made in a televised interview a day earlier.
In the interview on Channel 2 News’ “Meet the Press”, Livni said that by refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has taken positions “that are unacceptable to us or to the rest of the world.”
She then proceeded to warn that if Abbas “continues to adhere to these positions, he will pay the price.”
Abbas’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, took issue with Livni’s remarks, telling the PA-based WAFA news agency that the goal behind these statements is to evade the requirements of the peace process and to sabotage peace efforts by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Livni has deemed herself not fit to be a negotiator particularly as the U.S. administration is still exerting efforts to find a solution based on two-state solution,” Abu Rudeineh said.
He added that “what Livni is asking for does not agree in any way with the bases of the negotiations as well as international rules and references on which the negotiations were launched.”
“Livni has decided to join the official circles in the Israeli government who are working on destroying the opportunity that exists today,” charged Abu Rudeineh, adding that Livni has “violated the agreement with Kerry, which says no one should discuss the negotiations through the media.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stressed that peace is contingent upon the PA recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. The PA has already formally refused to do so, while it demands that Israel allow millions of “Palestinian refugees” into Israel as part of a peace agreement.
Abu Rudeineh’s remarks that Livni was “violating” the agreement that no leaks should be made to the press are ironic, as Israeli officials have remain tight-lipped about the talks while PA officials have made several leaks to the press since talks resumed.
One such leak involved a PA official saying that during the negotiations, Israel agreed to a wholesale deportation of thousands of Jews from Judea and Samaria and the transfer of their property to PA Arabs. However, the PA official who reported on that Israeli offer added that the PA side had rejected it as not going far enough.
In an earlier leak to the press, the PA’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told an Arabic radio station that the U.S. has guaranteed the PA all of its key preconditions in advance of negotiations.