Government ‘poked Obama in the eye’ with new settlement construction, Livni charges

Government ‘poked Obama in the eye’ with new settlement construction, Livni charges

But Deputy FM Ayalon says diplomatic drubbing over decision to build in controversial E1 corridor 'not the end of the world' for Israel

Tzipi Livni (photo credit: Ben David/Flash90)
Tzipi Livni (photo credit: Ben David/Flash90)

Tzipi Livni, the head of the Hatnua (The Movement) party, on Tuesday lambasted the government for its handling of the fallout from the Palestinians’ successful UN status-upgrade gambit, saying that its apparently punitive decision to construct thousands of housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including in the controversial E1 corridor between the capital and the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, was detrimental to Israel’s security interests.

Livni also charged that the government was waging “a campaign of incitement” by labeling anybody who opposed its policies in the wake of the United Nations vote “a collaborator with the enemy.”

“Only two weeks ago,” after Operation Pillar of Defense, she told Israel Radio, “everyone thanked the president of the United States and [Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton for their contribution to [the] Iron Dome [missile defense system] and for standing with Israel. Only a few days ago, the American president stood — almost alone, I’m sorry to say — with Israel at the UN. And on the following day… Israel poked him in the eye” by announcing its settlement-building plans.

Livni asserted, though, that Israel was right to oppose the Palestinians’ UN initiative, in what appeared to be an attempt to differentiate herself from former prime minister Ehud Olmert, under whom she once served as foreign minister. In remarks he made in New York on Monday night, Olmert said he supported the Palestinian Authority-backed UN resolution because it advanced the notion of two states for two peoples rather than a “one-state solution.”

Livni predicted that Israel would eventually keel in the face of mounting pressure and rescind its decision to build in E1. In an apparent acknowledgement of the probability of a Likud victory in the January 22, 2013, elections, Livni said the government may wait till after it was reelected to back down from the construction initiative, but that “by then we will have lost [the support of] the entire world and Israel’s closest friends.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon defended Israel’s decision to push forward with the construction initiative, saying it was the right move and “essential for maintaining Israel’s national interests.”

Ayalon, a former ambassador to the US and a long-time member of the Israeli diplomatic corps, played down the drubbing meted out to the country’s envoys in Europe on Monday, saying that host countries summoning ambassadors to register displeasure was “an inseparable part of the diplomatic world.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“We’re not happy about it, but it’s not the end of the world,” he said. “Israel’s security is more important than diplomatic relations.”

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan termed the Palestinian UN gambit a “war crime,” and said that Israel would have been justified in annexing territories in the West Bank in response to the move. Erdan also slammed Olmert for his criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The former prime minister was just the “latest inciter against Israel,” Erdan charged.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar also played down the international pressure on Israel, saying that the government had anticipated the barrage of condemnations. “The State of Israel, if it wants to survive in this corner of the world,” he told Channel 10, “must know how to withstand even rebukes of its ambassadors.”

Like Erdan, Sa’ar took Olmert to task for his criticism of government policy, and directed a tongue-lashing at Livni, as well.

“All of the parties that refer to themselves as ‘center-left’ have failed to rise to their first challenge” in their reactions to the Palestinian United Nations bid, Sa’ar said. “Olmert and Livni trumpet on the international stage their aversion to Israel while defending the Palestinians.”

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