Livni: With annexation bills, right wing panders to its extremists

Justice minister says prioritizing isolated settlements over the general public will lead to borders based on ’67 anyhow

Haviv Rettig Gur is The Times of Israel's senior analyst.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speaks in front of law students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, on Tuesday (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni speaks in front of law students at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, on Tuesday (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) vehemently criticized the recent spate of legislative proposals that seek to place obstacles in the path of US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Those bills include two efforts to legislate Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley, two bills requiring Knesset approval before the government negotiates over any part of Jerusalem, measures strengthening the 2010 law requiring a national referendum for any withdrawal from sovereign territory in the framework of a peace-deal land swap, and more.

In a speech Tuesday before students at the Hebrew University Law School, Livni, a former Likud cabinet minister, argued that the bills, mostly proposed by Likud MKs, were driven by the politicians’ need to appeal to a narrow political minority overrepresented in their party.

“Part of the problem is that the average politician is divided between those who select him — members of the party’s central committee and ideological groups that overwhelm a party in order to advance a specific agenda, which is usually more extreme than the worldview of the voting public — and the general public,” she said.

“That’s how we find ourselves every Sunday waking up to new headlines like the one about annexing the Jordan Valley,” she added. That effort, while unlikely to pass into law because of opposition from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and others, was approved two weeks ago in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation by a vote of nine to three.

“The ministers aren’t stupid,” Livni said of the vote. “They understand this harms the state of Israel, its security. But they’re playing the game, because they are indebted to the extremist groups in their party.

“Let us once and for all remove the masks and stop speaking in slogans,” she said. The peace negotiators “are the ones who truly guard the security of Israel and are implementing the Zionist idea.”

Israel’s security requires a close alliance with the United States and other allies, she said. And it requires that the soldiers of the Jewish state, “when they go out to war, have the legitimacy to act,” Livni insisted. “That legitimacy is obtained when the world understands Israel. The world understands our struggle against terrorism, but it doesn’t understand why we send citizens to settle isolated settlements.”

If Israel fails to reach a peace deal, or at least a unilateral withdrawal, she suggested, “the IDF will be dragged before international tribunals. Those who speak in the name of security and the strength of the army are actually transforming the IDF from an army that protects Israel and its citizens into an army that must protect itself and its own soldiers.”

If Israel won’t act in her own interest, she concluded, the world will force her hand. “The government of israel almost cancelled all its scientific ties with Europe so that we could build a little more [in the settlements],” she said, in an apparent reference to the dust up in recent weeks over Israel’s membership in the European Union’s €80-billion Horizon 2020 scientific grant program.

Israel was accepted into the program after a great deal of backchannel negotiations, but funds obtained through the initiative cannot go to research conducted by institutions in the West Bank.

The pressure from Western countries and international tribunals will, in the end, push Israel back to 1967 borders, Livni argued. “Those who don’t distinguish between isolated settlements and the settlement blocs,” which Israel wants to keep in a potential land swap, “are the ones who will return us to the ’67 lines,” she concluded.

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