Olmert aides 'flabbergasted' by Livni coolness to Syria talks
Sources close to the premier responded to Livni criticism of Olmert's call for a return to pre-'67 lines.
Aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued blistering criticism of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday in response to Livni's voicing her dissatisfaction with Olmert's call to a return to the 1967 ceasefire lines at remembrance ceremonies for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
"Livni was the head of the negotiating team and it was she who showed flexibility and made constructive compromise proposals on the issue of borders as well as the issue of Jerusalem," an aide to Olmert said. "We have no doubt that if and when she will be elected prime minister she will continue the policy of compromise which is Kadima's way just as Prime Minister Olmert planned from the beginning."
Olmert aides also lashed out at Livni for suggesting that it was she who spearheaded the convening of the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007. "After she concocted the fact that she is the one who nudged President Bush to write his letter in April 2003 and the fact that she initiated Annapolis, we are waiting for her declaration that she is the one who authored the Rhodes conference of 1949," an Olmert staffer said.
Livni's recent statements to the effect that "Olmert mustn't be allowed to establish facts on the ground in the negotiations with Syria" also drew the ire of the premier's aides. "We are flabbergasted by Livni's position that no negotiations should be held with Syria at this time even though she says she intends to continue the talks or to renew them following the elections," the source said. "Negotiations with Syria are of vital strategic significance and one mustn't take personal, political considerations into account."
"The prime minister is intent on and is determined to continue diplomatic negotiations on all the tracks and he hasn't even considered halting them, even throughout an election campaign in which he is not at all involved," the aide said. Sources close to Livni said that Olmert aides' statements on Jerusalem were untrue, and that the foreign minister had no intention to comment any further.
Senior officials in Kadima accused Olmert of eschewing the party platform. Livni was correct in disassociating herself with the premier's statements, party officials said.
"I as Kadima Chairwoman am not committed to the outgoing prime minister's comments - but to Kadima's platform, and this is what determines exactly how we will hold negotiations," said Livni, speaking in an interview with Army Radio.
Olmert called on Monday for withdrawing from the territories and "returning to the area that was Israel until 1967."
Livni continued: "Between myself and Olmert there have been differences. When I wrote the platform of Kadima, upon its establishment, Olmert spoke in terms of 'consolidation.'
"You can't just throw the key to the other side and hope for the best, especially not in Judea and Samaria."
She was referring to the plan for a pullout from the West Bank touted by Olmert when he headed Kadima's 2006 electoral bid. Livni herself will be seeking to bring the ruling Kadima party victory in the upcoming general elections in February.
However, Livni did affirm the importance of continuing peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, and of reaching a final agreement based on territorial compromise.
"We want to maintain a safe state in Israel and this cannot be done on all of it. We need to finish the conflict with the Palestinians and look out for the security of our citizens," she told Army Radio.