Palestinian youthes play on the rubble of an Israeli-bombed residential building in Rafah, Gaza Strip
Gaza offensive chance for Mideast peace: Livni
56 minutes ago
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israel's deadly war in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip can advance the Middle East peace process, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Monday ahead of a visit by the new US peace envoy to the region.
The Jewish state's 22-day assault had dealt a heavy blow to the Islamists and should be used to strengthen moderate Palestinians, Livni said in a meeting with US ambassador to Israel James Cunningham.
Her comments came just days before US President Barack Obama's newly-appointed Mideast envoy George Mitchell was due to arrive in the region and two weeks before Israel holds a general election in which Livni is one of the leading candidates.
"Operation Cast Lead can and should mark a turning point not only for calm in the south of the country, but also with making progress in regional processes that Israel and the United States wish to advance," her office quoted her as saying at the meeting.
"The operation strategically changed the standing of Hamas and extremist elements and can be used as a lever by the US and the international community to change reality" during Obama's term, said Livni, who heads the centrist Kadima party in the February 10 elections.
"Israel will not return to the status quo before the operation and the weakness of Hamas must be used to strengthen moderate elements."
Livni headed the Israeli negotiation team in the latest round of peace talks with the Palestinians which have made next to no progress since they kicked off in November 2007.
The Jewish state launched its 22-day offensive in Gaza on December 27 in response to consistent rocket fire on Israel. More than 1,300 Palestinians were killed during the offensive which devastated the impoverished enclave.