Israeli Prime Minister-designate Tzipi Livni warned Sunday that time is running out for a peace deal with the Palestinians, with extremists gaining strength as negotiations stumble.
In her first foreign policy speech since her appointment to form a new government, Livni said Israel must press on with peace talks because “doing nothing has its own price.”
Israel and the Palestinians resumed talks in November at an international conference hosted by President Bush. They set a target date of January 2009, when Bush leaves office, for finishing a peace deal, but little apparent progress has been made, and both sides cast doubt about hitting the target.
Livni, who heads the Israeli negotiating team, warned it is dangerous to let the process drag on indefinitely.
“An understanding of what is under way in the region shows that time is not working in the favor” of Israel and regional moderates, she said. She alluded to the growing strength of Islamic Hamas militants, who overran the Gaza Strip last year and are challenging moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
Livni spoke at a strategy conference in Jerusalem. She is currently the foreign minister in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's transition government. Plagued by multiple corruption investigations, Olmert resigned last month after his party chose Livni to replace him.
Livni is trying to put together a majority coalition government. She has until Nov. 3, but warned that protracted political turmoil could be harmful.
“Creating political stability quickly is necessary not for political needs, but so that we can … deal with the challenges from outside, economic and others,” she said. If Livni fails to form a government, Israel must hold a general election early next year.