Netanyahu to Livni: Only Elected Israeli Goverment Should Negotiate With Palestinians

PM's comments come following meeting between Opposition Leader and PA President Abbas; Livni: Your government should negotiate instead of bringing on Israel's isolation.

The only Israeli body fit to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority is the elected government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni on Thursday, a day after the Kadima chairman met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Speaking with Haaretz on Wednesday, Livni said of her meeting with Abbas in Amman that Israel could resume peace talks with the Palestinians without giving in on its "non-negotiables."

Livni Netanyahu- AP- Feb 22, 2009

"We've reached the 11th hour," Livni said, adding that "before the situation deteriorates, we have to restart negotiations." The Kadima chairperson stressed that she updated Netanyahu both before and after meeting Abbas.

However, speaking to Livni on the phone on Thursday, Netanyahu indicated that "if the Palestinians wanted to negotiate, the only way to do so would be with Israel's elected government."

Giving her own account of the conversation with Netanyahu, Livni said she told the prime minister that "Israel's security and its ability to defend itself should have already brought your government to hold serious talks supported by the international community, instead of being isolated from it."

"I won't negotiate instead of the government, but I will act to extract Israel from its isolation in the international arena and work to strengthen the legitimacy of military action against terror as well as to bolster the moderate camp in the Middle East," Livni said, adding that that camp was "fading away in this government's term."

Since becoming opposition leader, Livni has avoided meeting with Abbas so as not to look as if she were meddling in the contacts between the Palestinians and the Netanyahu government.

In the end, she decided to meet with the Palestinian leader to make it clear to him that Kadima also opposes a Palestinian unity government with Hamas that is not committed to the conditions set by the Middle East Quartet: recognizing Israel, abandoning terror, and honoring previous agreements.

On Thursday, Haaretz learned that Netanyahu refused to counter a Quartet-sponsored Palestinian proposal for the future borders of a Palestinian state, saying that the only way to determine core issues was through direct peace talks with Israel.

Read this article in Hebrew: רה"מ ללבני: על הרשות לנהל מו"מ עם הממשלה הנבחרת