"Annapolis will continue," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a conference Sunday in her first foreign policy speech since being elected to head the ruling Kadima party. Her Palestinian Authority (PA) counterpart Riyad al-Malki spoke at the same conference and said that talks without action by the end of the year will explode with a PA headed by Hamas.
Livni is trying to put together a new coalition government while the clock keeps ticking away on her early November deadline to succeed or face elections. "Let us not allow dates or political changes to stand in our way," she said. She stayed clear of defining her policy concerning the PA demand for control of eastern Jerusalem.
She stayed clear of defining policy concerning the PA demand for control of eastern Jerusalem.
Accepting the PA position would virtually squelch any chance of bringing the hareidi-religious Shas party into the coalition and would probably leave Livni without enough partners for a majority in the Knesset. Denying the PA demand could stymie talks and also, some fear, cause a violent eruption in the entire Arab world.
Her comments came after Al-Maliki charged that Israel is violating commitments it made at last year's talks in Annapolis, Maryland, to reach a final status agreement by the end of this year for a new Arab state within Israel's current borders. He capped off his comments with the threat of a Hamas takeover in Judea and Samaria similar to the one staged in Gaza last year.
"What is the alternative?" he asked rhetorically. "Look at Hamas in Gaza. Hamas objects to the negotiations and is using their stagnation as an excuse to the return to violence. We are under immense pressure from the Arab League, that wants to see us moving ahead with the peace deal, but right now there is no process in motion. We believed in what was promised; that this year would be different, but we are already in October, and we are losing hope."
However, Livni remained undaunted. "The negotiations should continue just as we agreed at Annapolis," she insisted. "Nothing will be agreed on until there is agreement about everything."
PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas also played the "Hamas card" in a discussion with visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Ramallah Saturday. He also claimed that he wants to continue talks not only with Israel but also with Hamas. "I discussed with the visiting foreign minister unifying the Palestinian territories and ending the current political split," Abbas stated. "I hope unity will be achieved and next time we will receive Kouchner in the Gaza Strip."
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit last year that if Abbas tried to reach another unity agreement with Hamas, Israel would immediately stop negotiations on a new Arab state.
PA senior negotiator Ahmed Qureia took a hard line and maintained that the PA will reject any agreement "that does not include the issue of Jerusalem." One PA news agency reported that he spoke with Ra'ad Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in northern Israel, and promised that any agreement would safeguard Muslim holy places against alleged Israeli plans to build synagogues near and underneath the Temple Mount.
The claim that Israel seeks to undermine the mosques on the Temple Mount are often repeated by the Muslim leadership, with no evidence to corroborate it.