Justice Minister Tzipi Livni criticized Wednesday recent proposals by right-wing politicians seeking the annexation of Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, and threatened to pull her Hatnua party out of the coalition if such measures were advanced.
“There will be no annexation while I am in the government. And if there will be — there will be no government,” Livni said at a conference at Ben Gurion Airport.
Livni’s condemnation of initiatives that would absorb West Bank areas into sovereign Israel came in the wake of comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an interview with Bloomberg last week. Netanyahu had hinted that Israel may have to take unilateral action in the wake of failed negotiations with the Palestinians.
The interview sparked excitement throughout Netanyahu’s coalition: Hawkish MKs interpreted the statements as a call for annexation, while more dovish elements in the government, Livni among them, said the time may have come to consider a unilateral pullout from certain areas in the West Bank. Sources close to the prime minister later clarified that Netanyahu was not referring to such a withdrawal.
Following the interview, right-wing MKs — spearheaded by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett — issued repeated calls for annexation. MKs Yariv Levin (Likud) and Orit Strock (Jewish Home) submitted a series of bills on Monday seeking government annexation of Jewish sites and settlement blocs in the West Bank. Housing Minister Uri Ariel said Tuesday that “there will be just one state between the Jordan River and the [Mediterranean] sea, and that is the State of Israel,” and that “Jerusalem will not be divided again.”
“Those who say the blocs are ours and can be annexed [unilaterally] are deceiving us all,” Livni said Wednesday. Israel would only retain sovereignty over such areas by either striking an agreement with the Palestinians or drawing world opinion to its side, she said. The alternative, namely unilateral annexation, would merely isolate Israel internationally and compromise both its Jewish character and its democratic values, she argued.
The minister, who also served as chief negotiator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that stalled last month, urged fellow ministers to act quickly to stymie right-wing efforts. “We must hurry, because there is a minority that is determining [the future] for us. Every day that passes is another day in which there is construction in some isolated settlement,” she said. The right was willing to hold on to the contested lands and “pay the price of international isolation,” she said.
“The discrepancy between how we view ourselves and how the world views us is frustrating,” Livni said. “I am not willing to let the Palestinians or anyone else determine what we should be doing, but we can’t just deal with those against us. Let’s be unified for something. We have to decide what that something is, what the new Zionist vision of 2014 is.”