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Israel Hands Peace Talks to Minister Who Opposes 2 States

Israel’s new hardline interior minister, Silvan Shalom, was appointed the country’s chief peace negotiator for any future peace talks with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Shalom, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and a former foreign minister, on Monday, according to Israeli media reports.

Shalom has repeatedly said that he does not support the establishment of a Palestinian state, a key component of any peace deal, and has backed expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian lands, Haaretz reported.

Tzipi Livni, now a co-leader of the opposition’s left-leaning Zionist Union party, previously headed up the negotiations. Shalom also is tasked with strategic dialogue with the United States, according to Israel Radio.

“The appointment indicates the desire of the prime minister and Israel to have negotiations with the Palestinians, in contrast to the accusations that Israel refuses peace, and in contrast to the Palestinian claims that they cannot avoid unilateral actions in order to advance the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Shalom said in private conversations, the Hebrew language-NRG news website reported.

He also reportedly said that he was “ready to discuss any topic and in any area, from the weighty issues of the United Nations to smaller issues such as joint management of daily life.”

Shalom was foreign minister from 2003 to 2006, during the second Palestinian intifada and Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is scheduled to visit the area and meet with Israel and Palestinian Authority officials later this week in an effort to jump-start the peace process.

U.S.-led indirect peace talks ended in April without progress, after which the Palestinians began to press their case in international forums. Many nations and the Vatican have recognized the state of Palestine.

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