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Tzipi Livni further downplayed expectations that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal would be reached by the end of the year.

The Israeli foreign minister, who has been heading Israel’s talks with the Palestinians, said the time pressure of that goal set by President Bush was not helpful. It was a goal deemed ambitious from the start.

“Our responsibility is to reach an agreement and act in a responsible way,” Livni said Thursday at a news conference with foreign correspondents. “I believe a time line is important, but what is more important is the nature and content of an understanding we can reach.

“Any attempt to bridge gaps that are premature to bridge,” can lead to mistakes she said, noting that undue international pressure, “can lead to clashes and violence like we faced after Camp David in 2000 so we need to learn from this.”

She said both sides were in agreement not to rush talks.

“When the Israelis and Palestinians can agree on something, the international community should accept it.”

She also addressed the issue of negotiating with the pragmatic but politically weak Palestinian Authority while Hamas continues to rule in Gaza.

“There is a small army in Gaza and smuggling of weapons continues. This is something we cannot turn a blind eye to while we are negotiating,” she said, arguing that Israel and the international community must continue delegitimizing Hamas if there is to be any hope of moderate forces winning out.

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