Tzipi Livni has led Israel into war, and also attempted to guide it to peace. She played an integral role in Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah as foreign minister in the government of Ehud Olmert, and negotiated the agreement, enshrined as U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, that ended the conflict. In 2008, she held talks on the "core issues" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei -- the first time such discussions had been held since the acrimonious collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000. Israel's Knesset elections, held in February 2009, presented a mixed bag: Her Kadima Party won more seats than any other party, but the Israeli right captured a majority of the total vote.
Rather than bring her party into a government headed by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Livni elected to join the opposition. She has assailed the Netanyahu government for overseeing a "serious decline in Israel's standing around the world," and for failing to resume peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Foreign Policy spoke with Livni shortly after the announcement that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would agree to a U.S. proposal for "indirect talks," marking the tentative resumption of negotiations for the first time since 2008. The position of Livni, who told FP's David Kenner that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is "the reason for me to be in politics," will do much to determine whether this new round talks sputters to a halt or leads to serious negotiations between the two sides. Excerpts:
Foreign Policy: It appears that Abbas will agree to resume proximity talks. Is it a diplomatic victory that the talks are being renewed, or is it a step backwards from the direct diplomacy of previous governments?
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Tzipi Livni: Direct talks are very important. I think that the best thing to do is continue from where we stopped -- there is no need to start all over again. It is true that 16 years passed [after the Oslo Accords], and during all these years we had ongoing negotiations. [When I was] representing the Israeli interest [during] the negotiations, there is nothing that I discussed or agreed with the Palestinians that any Israeli prime minister who wants to make peace cannot agree to. I believe that we need to continue from where we stopped -- and when I say from where we stopped, it means from where the negotiation teams led by Abu Alaa [Qurei] and myself left off [in late 2008].
I'm glad to see the beginning of something, but for me the goal is not the negotiations -- the goal is the peace treaty. There is a big question mark [as to] whether this is just the beginning of a dialogue, or it is going to lead to a real peace treaty. For me, this is the real issue, and this is the goal: To end the conflict and [sign] a peace treaty. We faced a situation in the past in which negotiations led to more frustration, and blaming one another.