By Mick Krever and Claire Calzonetti, CNN
Israel’s decision to agree to preliminary talks with the Palestinians are not because of outside pressure but rather because of the country’s own interest, the Israel's top point person for the talks, Tzipi Livni, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“It’s not a favor to the Palestinians, not to the E.U., and not even to the President of the United States,” Livni, who is also Justice Minister, told Amanpour from Jerusalem. “It is the interest of Israel.”
Livni said that she hoped to meet with the Palestinians in the next few days, and lay the groundwork for direct negotiations between the highest levels of government among the Israelis and Palestinians.
“I support deeply not only the idea of negotiations,” Livni said, “but the idea of the need to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.”
Talks have been in complete stalemate for years – giving the appearance of a virtually intractable problem with no solution in sight.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the agreement on Friday; he has been shuffling in and out of the region for months, speaking with both sides.
Livni praised Kerry’s work so far, saying he “really was amazing here.”
The terms of negotiations have not been made public, but among the most contentious issues for starting talks are using the 1967 borders, Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Israel will reportedly release some prisoners they describe as “heavyweight,” but Livni was circumspect about revealing anything that had been agreed to by either side so far.
“The whole idea is that – to build trust and confidence,” Livni explained, “and not to enter into this blame game that we used to have in the last years.”