Livni: We face South Africa-style isolation because of settlements

If peace talks collapse, ‘a wave’ of boycott pressure will crash into Israel, says justice minister. It’s a propaganda war ‘and we’re losing,’ says deputy FM Elkin

Tzipi Livni visits the West Bank settlement of Gvaot in Gush Etzion, December 19, 2012. (photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
Tzipi Livni visits the West Bank settlement of Gvaot in Gush Etzion, December 19, 2012. (photo credit: Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

If Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fail, Israel will be subjected to international isolation similar to that which brought about the collapse of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians, warned on Saturday.

“The world does not understand the settlements,” Livni said in a Channel 2 TV news interview. “The peace negotiations are the wall stopping the wave [of international boycott pressure]. If there is a crisis [in the talks, that wave] will crash through.”

Asked whether Israel would face the same kind of isolation as South Africa did, she replied, “Yes.” Because of the dangers, Livni said: “I’m screaming, ‘Wake Up!’ ”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed last July, but have made no clear progress. US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is brokering the talks, appears to have abandoned his goal of achieving a peace accord by April, and is instead said to be finalizing a more general “framework” accord, covering all key issues, as a basis for continuing the talks beyond April. A TV report on Friday said the Palestinians were likely to reject the framework deal, blame Israel for the failure, and launch a diplomatic and legal war against Israel in every possible international forum.

Livni added in the TV interview that she respected but disagreed with those who champion the Greater Land of Israel ideology and are committed to expanding West Bank settlements. “Don’t impose this isolation upon us,” she pleaded, adding that each announcement of new settlement plans, and every new building in an isolated settlement, “is another brick in the wall of isolation that is being built around us.”

Livni is the leader of the small center-left Hatnua party in the coalition. Most Knesset members in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu alliance, along with the nationalist-Orthodox Jewish Home party, are committed to expanding settlements. Jewish Home’s leaders also want to annex substantial parts of the West Bank. The government last week announced plans to build 1,400 new homes in East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements, prompting criticism from the US and Europe. Several Israeli ambassadors in Europe were summoned by their host countries in protest at the new building plans last week, prompting Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman to summon those countries’ ambassadors in Israel, in turn, to rebut the criticisms.

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)
EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen (photo credit: Yossi Zwecker)

The European Union’s Ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Anderson, told Channel 2 that “if the settlement business continues to expand, Israel will be facing increasing isolation.”

And Britain’s Ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, said only a last-minute compromise over the Horizon 2020 multimillion euro scientific cooperation project prevented “a big rift between British and European science, and Israeli science, and that would have been a tragedy.” Gould said Israel is “losing support” internationally, and “I worry that in five years Israel will wake up and find that it doesn’t have enough friends.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin (photo credit: AP/Dan Balilty)
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (photo credit: AP/Dan Balilty)

Attorney Daniel Reisner, of the leading Tel Aviv law firm Herzog, Fox & Neeman, told the program that Israeli businesses were turning to him in increasing numbers because of cancelled contracts, conflicts with international boards, lost investments and all kinds of other boycott-style pressures stemming from international opposition to Israel’s presence in the West Bank and settlement policies.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) described the struggle as “a propaganda war” that “we’re certainly losing” at present. Elkin, a strong supporter of settlement expansion, added, “If we lose, it will cost us.”

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