By Joseph Millis
Israel’s Justice Minister and chief peace negotiator has claimed that the peace talks between her country and the Palestinians are not dead; they are at a “pause”.
And she said that decisions had to be taken because Israel “cannot afford the status quo because there is no status quo”.
Tzipi Livni’s Monty Pythonesque Dead Parrot moment came during an address to a Jewish National Fund meeting.
And she may be right, as it has emerged that Ms Livni held a brief meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who was in London for talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Ms Livni, who also had a meeting with Mr Kerry, is reported to have told Mr Abbas that his unity deal with Hamas was “problematic” for Israel. She also wanted to find out what the PA leader’s real intentions were.
The Livni-Abbas meeting was not sanctioned by the Israeli government, which had stopped all contacts with the PA since Mr Abbas’ decision to do a deal with Hamas. However, Ms Livni gave Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu advanced notice of the meeting, and they agreed that the Premier would say that the meeting was private and not official.
Ms Livni told the audience that the “principle for peace was a two-state solution, where the Palestinians recognised Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, while Israel recognised Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people”.
She added: “The talks are at a pause, they are not over. We say that the door is always open, but this time perhaps it’s for Spider-Man. And with Mr Abbas going to the UN, we cannot say that it’s business as usual, because it is not. So we now wait and see.”
She noted that the “vast majority of Israelis” accepted that it was in the country’s interest that there would be a two-state solution, but she acknowledged that with the process now going on for 20 years, there was “talks fatigue”.
Ms Livni said she saw her role as “creating some home, even in times of despair… This is the role of leaders.”
The worst-case scenario now was, Ms Livni said, “not making a decision. The price of peace is less than the price of war. We cannot afford a status quo because there isn’t a status quo.”
The world, she said, was “going to turn against us more and more. And it’s not about hasbara (propaganda), we have to take a decision.”
On the settlements, which she once supported but now said made it impossible to defend Israel around the world, “we now live between two visions. One is to have greater Israel, and there are those in the Israeli government and Israeli society who believe in this and who believe that another day without a decision is another day of victory. But they are a minority in the state of Israel.
“The idea was to keep the land and stay there. But now the vision of the majority in Israel is two states for two peoples. And the majority of the settlers will remain in Israel. But it’s very difficult to explain why we are building in areas that we won’t be in.”
Meanwhile, outside the venue about 150 pro-Palestinian demonstrators and some 100 Israel supporters faced off outside the event, each trying to make more noise than the other. The pro-Palestinians were supported by Neturei Karta, Jews for Justice for Palestine and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.
They held placards showing Ms Livni as a wanted war criminal – which amused the minister, who said that she had one of them at home “next to a British wanted poster of my father”. But, she said, her parents, who were members of the pre-state Irgun organisation which the British said were terrorists, were “freedom fighters, not terrorists”.