August 12, 2009 - 12:00am

Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni declared her opposition Wednesday to releasing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti from an Israeli prison.

Barghouti, who recently won a spot on the Fatah central committee in a party convention that was held in Bethlehem earlier this week, is serving numerous life sentences for masterminding attacks against Israeli civilians.

A number of Israeli officials have urged his release in the hope that Barghouti, whose positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are believed to be moderate, could eventually become a partner in peace talks. For the time being, though, Livni does not count among them.
"An Israeli court ruled that he committed murder," Livni told Army Radio on Wednesday. "He was sentenced to many years in jail and the elections in Fatah are not a sufficient justification for his release from jail."

"The fact that the Palestinians elected him or that someone here in Israel thinks that he can be a partner is not a sufficient excuse for his release," Livni said.

The former foreign minister assailed the Netanyahu government for its diplomatic policies toward the Palestinian question.

"Avoiding a decision does not serve Israel's interests," Livni said. "We must return to the negotiating table and to continue from the point at which it stopped. The negotiations did not fail, but were interrupted. We need to continue it even if there is a need for difficult decisions."


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