Talks with Palestinians to continue despite attacks, Israel says

Israel Materials 19 February 2008 00:57 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Israel will continue negotiations with the Palestinians despite continued rocket fire on the southern part of the country, since halting the talks would play into the hands of Hamas, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday.

"If negotiations stop, will terrorism stop? If negotiations are halted, this will leave the playing field entirely to Hamas," Israeli media quoted her as saying while replying to a no-confidence vote in the Knesset.

"The negotiations," she said, "are intended to set and preserve Israel's principles, which are being eroded with the passage of time."

"I do not walk into a room like Santa Claus, bearing gifts for the Palestinians. I represent Israel's interests," she continued.

The no confidence motion was submitted by the nationalist Yisrael B'Teinu faction, until recently a member of the governing coalition, to protest the daily rocket fire from the Gaza strip on Israel.

But a current coalition partner, the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said last week it would bolt the government if peace talks with the Palestinians progressed while Gaza-based militants continued to fire missiles Israel.

Israel and the Palestinians recently renewed peace talks after a seven-year hiatus. Livni meets regularly with former Palestinian premier Ahmed Quria to discuss the so-called "core issues" of the conflict, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas parley about every two weeks. The two are slated to hold their next meeting on Tuesday.