Netanyahu: Livni Did Not Represent Israel in Meeting With Abbas

Prime Minister was briefed in advance on the meeting between the Justice Minister and the Palestinian president, PMO official says. Netanyahu stressed she was representing only herself.

Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni in 2011
Mahmoud Abbas and Tzipi Livni in 2011. AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself on Saturday from the meeting between Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas which took place in London on Thursday.

A senior official at the Prime Minister's Office said that Netanyahu clarified to Livni before the meeting that she would be "representing only herself and not the Israeli government."

Livni briefed Netanyahu on her plan to meet Abbas in London more than 24 hours before the meeting took place. The senior official at the PMO said that Netanyahu stressed to Livni that the cabinet had decided to suspend negotiations with the Palestinian Authority following the reconciliation agreements between Hamas and Fatah. Netanyahu reminded her that she had also voted for that decision, which remains unchanged.

The official added that the prime minister told Livni the cabinet had decided that Israel "will not negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas, a terrorist organization which calls for Israel's destruction."

Earlier on Saturday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was asked about the Livni-Abbas meeting on Channel 2's Meet the Press, and seemed to have coordinated his response with Netanyahu.

"There is a cabinet decision on freezing negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and Livni supported this decision," he said. "I suppose she was in London and privately met whoever she wanted to meet. I am sure it's not related to negotiations. Even if they played checkers, that's their right.  

Livni's office declined to comment on the report.

The meeting between Livni and Abbas was the first meeting between the Palestinian president and a senior Israeli minister in several months.

Livni, who is the senior Israeli negotiator in the peace talks with the Palestinians, told Abbas in the meeting that the establishment of a unity government with Hamas is very problematic for Israel and will make it difficult to renew negotiations.

The Israeli official said that the goal of the meeting was to attempt to understand Abbas' intentions following the breakdown of peace talks with Israel. The meeting was arranged on short notice due to the fact that both Livni and Abbas were in London at the same time. The official said that Netanyahu was notified by Livni ahead of the meeting. Israel's Channel 2 was the first to report on the meeting.

On Thursday, Livni met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the two discussed the future of peace negotiations.