Palestinians ready for talks with Livni if she becomes Israeli PM

Other News Materials 23 September 2008 19:52 (UTC +04:00)

The Palestinian National Authority is prepared for negotiations with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni if she becomes prime minister, the Palestinian ambassador to Russia said on Tuesday, RIA Novosti reported.

On Monday Israeli President Shimon Peres asked Livni, who heads the ruling Kadima party, to form a new government, which she has 42 days to do in order to avoid early parliamentary elections.

"We are ready to continue contacts and interaction with any leadership that will be elected by the Israeli people," Afif Safieh said at a RIA Novosti news conference.

The diplomat said the internal political process in Israel has always been the main obstacle to the peace process in the region.

As the Kadima party has only 29 seats in the 120-seat parliament, Livni will have to unite with several rival parties to form a governing coalition.

The greatest challenge will be in bringing in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas, which holds 12 seats. The party has demanded extra budget funds to help low-income Israelis, and has pledged to quit any governing coalition if the issue of Jerusalem's status is raised at Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Ehud Olmert, 62, resigned on Sunday amid corruption allegations, and was replaced by Livni, 50, as the ruling party's leader on Wednesday. His governing coalition had included Shas, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Labor Party, and the Pensioners Party.

A drawn-out leadership struggle in Israel would put under threat the goal of reaching a peace-deal with the Palestinians by January 2009. The target was agreed on at last November's U.S.-sponsored peace conference.

Two of the main issues blocking progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks are Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the future status of Jerusalem, with Palestinians seeking to reclaim east Jerusalem, seized by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.