Livni castigates Netanyahu for abandoning two-state solution

In speech at Bar Ilan University, where PM in 2009 pledged support for Palestinian state, rival Hatnua leader says he was only paying lip service to idea he never intended to implement

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)
Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni (photo credit: Tsafrir Abayov/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s expression of support for a two-state solution was lip service to the international community and he never intended to actualize it, Hatnua party leader Tzipi Livni charged on Monday.

Speaking at Bar Ilan University, the same venue where Netanyahu said in June 2009, “We do not want to rule over [the Palestinians]” and that he envisioned “two free peoples living side by side in this small land,” Livni attacked Netanyahu’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and related directly to his 2009 remarks.

“Those were words that Netanyahu didn’t want and refused to say on the eve of the last elections. Those were words that he was forced to say after the last elections because of international pressure, and those were words that he refused to make a reality in the four years since that speech, either because he didn’t want to or because he was pressured by his natural allies,” Livni said.

Netanyahu had also said in the Bar Ilan speech that until a final territorial agreement with the Palestinians is made, “we have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements,” she said, and slammed him for what she termed his abandonment of his promises.

Livni, foreign minister in the previous Ehud Olmert-led government, bitterly criticized the Netanyahu government’s recent approval of construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And she noted that the joint Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list “refuses to place the Bar Ilan speech in its elections platform.” The Bar Ilan speech, she said, was “used by this government as a shield” that Netanyahu “waved across the world in order to say how Israel yearns for peace.”

“Today the whole world knows that the speech was lip service, a moderate mask on an extremist face,” she said.

“We are now grasping the reality of the extremism sweeping Likud-Beytenu and Netanyahu’s partners. The Bar Ilan speech turned into the media spin of our lifetime, the lie of the Netanyahu government — and it’s good that the truth came out before the elections.”

The joint Likud-Beytenu campaign team slammed Livni’s tirade. “It is amazing to see how quickly Livni sides with the Palestinians,” according to a statement published Monday evening. “You have to be deaf and blind not to see and hear what is going on in Gaza and the region, and insist on running towards a security and political abyss. When will Livni admit that her political blindness endangers Israel? Will it be when Hamas controls Judea and Samaria?”

National elections are scheduled for January and Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu list is expected to win some 36 seats in the 120 seat Knesset. Livni, whose new Hatnua party is polling at around 10 seats, vowed to “live out the principles” of Netanyahu’s Bar Ilan speech even though he had “buried” it and refused to actualize it.

“Whoever thinks the story of a two-state solution is because we are weak or are doing a favor to [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas or [Hamas politburo chief Khaled] Mashaal, or [US President Barack] Obama or [US secretary of state nominee] John Kerry — it’s complete nonsense. It is the sole way to safeguard the Zionist vision and the national home of the Jewish people.”

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