Livni: Netanyahu Calling the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Insoluble Buries Chances for Peace

Opposition head, U.S. official reject PM's statement to Haaretz that there is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Tzipi Livni chides Netanyahu, saying 'Who are you to bury the chances of a deal and of normal life?'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement this week that there is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has buried the prospect of a peace deal and normal life in Israel, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said yesterday.

"Your truth has come to light," Livni told the Knesset. Referring to the interview Netanyahu gave to Israeli author Etgar Keret, which was published in Haaretz yesterday, the Kadima chairwoman said: "In a relaxed conversation with an excellent author, for a moment you dropped the pose you adopt on every stage and you spoke your true position - the conflict cannot be resolved."

Emil Salman

Livni said Netanyahu had no right to make such a determination.

"Who are you to tell the citizens of Israel that they and their children, and later their children's children, will continue to live by their swords forever? Who are you to bury the chances of a deal and of normal life here, after just a few hours in the room meant for negotiations you didn't conduct?"

Both Livni and an Obama administration official said they disagreed with Netanyahu's assessment that no resolution was attainable.

"It's not easy to resolve the conflict," the Kadima leader said. "It's hard, it requires tough decisions - but it is possible. But it's impossible to do it with the front of refusal called the Israeli government."

A senior official in the Obama administration also said it was possible to bring the conflict to an end. She said President Barack Obama was very clear about how to move ahead: two states for two peoples, achieved through negotiation.

In Keret's article yesterday, which appeared in Haaretz's annual literary edition marking Hebrew Book Week, the acclaimed author wrote that Netanyahu told him: "This is an insoluble conflict because it's not about territory. It is not that you can give up a kilometer more and solve it. The root of the conflict is in an entirely different place. Until Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, there will be no way to reach an agreement."

Speaking before the Knesset plenum yesterday, Netanyahu reiterated his demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, that the Palestinian refugee issue be resolved outside Israel's borders, and the settlement blocs stay within the State of Israel in a final-status agreement.

"I have a question for my colleagues in the opposition: Is there something about these principles that isn't acceptable to them?" he asked. "Who's preventing [the Palestinians] from entering into negotiations? Us?"

U.S. officials will meet Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian officials this week to try to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to peace talks, the U.S. State Department said yesterday.

Dennis Ross, a White House official, and David Hale, who became the acting U.S. Middle East peace envoy following the resignation of George Mitchell last month, will meet unnamed Israeli officials, said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

"As part of our efforts to get the parties back to the negotiating table, Dennis Ross and David Hale are in the region today. They are consulting with the Israelis," he told reporters.

A spokesman for Netanyahu declined comment on whether he had met the U.S. officials.

Toner said that Hale would meet later this week separately with Abbas, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Jordanian and Egyptian officials.

A Palestinian official said Hale would meet Abbas on Thursday in Amman.

Three years into his presidency, Obama has little to show for his effort to revive direct negotiations between the two sides apart from a few weeks when they resumed last September before unraveling.