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Israeli Minister Defends Mtg. with PA's Abbas


JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni sloughed off criticism about her London meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas two weeks ago, saying it's in Israel's best interests to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forbade government ministers from meeting with any PA officials after Fatah and Hamas made a unity pact.  But Livni defended her meeting.

"I would like to remind everyone the conflict isn't over," Livni told members of her Hatnua Party, according to a statement, Agence France Presse reported.

"We're still here and the Palestinians are still here. Our interest is to resolve the problem and ignoring reality is not an option," AFP quoted her.

"And to all those politicians up in arms, I want to be clear," she reportedly said. "We will continue to promote what we believe in and that is what I did last week in my meeting with the Palestinian Authority chairman in London."

Despite what Livni called the "problematic nature" of a Hamas-Fatah unity government, she said "boycotting the other side is irresponsible." Israel "must listen to the other side" if it wishes "to present an alternative position." 

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Livni knew she was not acting on behalf of the government.

"The cabinet has made decisions to freeze peace talks with the Palestinian Authority and Livni also supported those decisions," Lieberman told Channel 2 news.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel will not negotiate with a unity government that includes a terror organization.

"The Israeli government won't hold peace talks with a Palestinian government supported by Hamas, a terrorist organization that openly declares its intentions to destroy the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

Livni formed Hatnua in November 2012 to pave the way for her return to politics. She retired from the government in March 2012 after losing the Kadima Party primaries to MK Shaul Mofaz.

Kadima was established by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in November 2005, following the "disengagement" -- Israel's unilateral exit from the Gaza Strip and four communities in Samaria (the northern West Bank).

Under Sharon, the government evicted the residents and bulldozed the communities in August 2005. Six months later, in January 2006, Sharon suffered a major brain hemorrhage that left him in a vegetative state for eight years before his death last January.

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