Likud Interior Minister Silvan Shalom has been appointed to become Israel’s new lead negotiator in any talks with the Palestinian Authority, as well as in strategic dialogue with the United States.
Palestinian Authority officials made it clear they were not happy with the appointment.
“He does not believe in a Palestinian state,” a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) source told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity. “He’s against a two-state solution. It’s not an issue of names. It’s an issue of policy.”
Leftist politician Tzipi Livni, head of the Hatnua party and a justice minister in the prior government was the last minister to head Israel’s negotiating team.
Shalom said Monday that he is “ready to review every subject in every area from the most weighty issues of the United Nations, to smaller matters such as managing joint day-to-day life.”
Having served as foreign minister from 2003 to 2006 (during the second intifada and the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza), Shalom is no novice to the role. He will also be responsible for strategic talks with officials from the United States as well, according to a report broadcast on Galei Tzahal Army Radio.
Likud members are expected to raise some opposition as well, because party member and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely was expected to be given the appointment.
Hotovely evaded reporters’ questions on Monday, saying only that until she is told otherwise, she will “work diligently to fulfill [her] duties faithfully in every sector in which Israel must act.”
Although it is usually the foreign minister who manages the issue of negotiations, at present Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is holding that post. Yisrael Beytenu party chairman Avigdor Liberman, the previous minister of foreign affairs, quit the coalition and withdrew his party as well.
Shalom’s new role is also likely to bring him in to security cabinet discussions on strategic issues such as how to deal with the Iranian nuclear issue vis a vis any dialogue with the United States.