Minister Silvan Shalom
Minister Silvan Shalom Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has handed responsibility for any future peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) to Interior Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud), an official said Monday.

"The prime minister has charged Silvan Shalom with conducting in his name the negotiations with the Palestinians," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Shalom will also be in charge of strategic dialogue with the United States, Army Radio said. Both positions are traditionally held by the Foreign Ministry, although not exclusively so. The last Israeli minister in charge of negotiations was Tzipi Livni, who served as Justice Minister under the previous government. 

The position of foreign minister is now held by Netanyahu himself after the previous incumbent, Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, bolted coalition talks at the 11th hour, relinquishing the portfolio.

The nomination was denounced by the PA, who said Shalom did not believe in the two-state solution.

"He does not believe in a Palestinian state. He's against a two-state solution," an official from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the terror group behind the PA, told AFP, asking not to be named. "It's not an issue of names. It's an issue of policy."

Shalom served as foreign minister in 2003-2006, a period which covered the second Intifada and the Disengagement from Gaza.

Opposition to the appointment is expected from within Likud as well, as responsibilities for both were expected to be given to Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely - who has taken on the lion's share of responsibilities in the Ministry despite Netanyahu's official position as the Foreign Minister. 

Hotovely dodged the issue in her official response Monday night. 

"The Prime Minister vested in me the powers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Deputy Minister - not as someone with full authority," Hotovely said to Arutz Sheva. "Until I am told otherwise, I will work diligently to fulfill my duties faithfully in every sector in which Israel must act."