Tzipi Livni: Settlement activity hurt negotiations

Echoing US envoy Indyk’s remarks, Israel’s chief negotiator says ‘hardcore group in Judea and Samaria’ prevented Palestinian deal

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni during a meeting at the Knesset on January 8, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni during a meeting at the Knesset on January 8, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Settlement construction hurts Israel and it has hurt negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel’s chief negotiator and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) said Friday, echoing statements made earlier by Washington’s special envoy to the talks, Martin Indyk.

Livni, responding to Indyk’s comment that the Israeli government’s settlement activity had sabotaged the talks, told Israel Radio Friday morning that she appreciated her US counterpart and must be honest: “Settlement construction hurt Israel, it hurts the Palestinians and it hurt the negotiations,” she said.

Livni added that she could defend Israel against delegitimization efforts around the world, but could not “explain or defend settlement construction and expansion.”

The justice minister also had some harsh words for those she considers to have had a hand in preventing an agreement with the Palestinians.

“There is a hardcore, ideological group, based in Judea and Samaria, in certain settlements, who want to prevent us from living here in any reasonable way. They oppose the Israeli values that the rest of us believe in. And on the political level, they are the ones who [sabotaged] an agreement,” Livni charged, in the wake of a recent spate of “price tag” attacks in the West Bank and in Arab villages and sites in Israel.

“Price tag” is a euphemism for hate attacks by Jewish extremists predominantly targeting Palestinian and Arab-Israeli property.

Livni was also referencing the role of Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), a staunch settlements backer, who throughout the nine-month negotiations process, announced several large construction tenders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“There are people in the government who don’t want peace,” Livni said last month, just days before negotiations broke down. “[Economics and Trade Minister and Jewish Home party leader Naftali] Bennett and Uri Ariel represent those who want to prevent a peace process,” she had accused.

On Thursday night, in his most revealing comments since the breakdown of talks, Indyk recounted how, after six months of productive direct negotiations, Palestinian leaders “shut down” and singled out settlement activity as a major — but not the sole — factor.

“The settlement movement… may well drive Israel into an irreversible binational reality,” Indyk warned during a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington DC.

Later, in a Q&A session, Indyk expanded on his argument, saying that settlement activity had “sabotaged negotiations” and now represented “a roadblock to resumption of negotiations.

“The expansion of settlements on land that the Palestinians believe is supposed to be part of their state and the prevention of their ability to build on the same land is a very problematic situation in the resolution of this conflict,” he added.

On Wednesday, senior government lawmakers convened an emergency meeting on the recent spate of price tag vandalism, following the arrests of a female settler from Yitzhar for debating the legality of killing soldiers under Jewish law in a local email list, and after a 25-year-old Yokne’am resident was caught red-handed slashing tires.

Livni, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri and police, IDF, and Shin Bet officials attended the discussion on combating the wave of violence and extremism.

“As justice minister, in the meeting I will have today with the public security minister on the price tag crimes, we will ensure that the violence against the law and against the IDF will be dealt with forcefully and severely,” Livni wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday morning in response to the arrest in Yitzhar.

“What began as the love of the land turned into a Wild West sown with hatred against the Arabs and against the rule of law and its representatives, and it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing: a judge’s robes, a police uniform, or an IDF uniform,” she wrote.

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