The Right gave Justice Minister Tzipi Livni more leeway in peace talks than ever before, but she failed, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday, while opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor) called for the Center-Left parties in the government to form a new coalition with him.
“We gave nine months to the negotiations in an unprecedented way,” Bennett told Army Radio. “I, as leader of the Right, didn’t lead any demonstrations against [the talks]. We let Livni and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat go into a room, and what came out of it were threats and extortion by the Palestinians, terrorist releases and no peace.”
As for accusations made by Livni Saturday night that Bayit Yehudi sought to “torpedo” the talks, Bennett said he wouldn’t “judge people in their time of distress,” but still called her statements “miserable.”
“I suggest that we don’t always blame ourselves. Even when we released terrorists and it wasn’t enough for the other side, we blamed ourselves. Sometimes you need to be on your own side. I’d rather be on the Israeli side, always,” he said.
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel, singled out by Livni in her criticism of the Right, advised the justice minister to “say you failed.”
“After they spat on you and on the State of Israel and unilaterally violated [the terms of the talks], you go back to negotiate,” he pointed out.
Bennett also warned that if the Palestinians acted unilaterally, Israel could do the same in return, although he disagreed with those who said the end of talks would lead to a crisis.
“We are going back nine months. There weren’t talks nine months ago and there wasn’t any tragedy then. In fact, it was the quietest time in Israel’s history,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Labor Party and opposition leader Isaac Herzog took the political opportunity of the apparent failure in peace talks to call for an election or for Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid to join him in forming a new coalition.
According to Herzog, “There is an alternative coalition in the Knesset today, which can bring peace. I call on Livni and Lapid – join me in an alternative political act. This government failed big time in social areas and now in diplomacy.
[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu is unable to do anything.”
On Saturday night, Livni said she hadn’t given up on negotiations, an indication that she would remain in the coalition, at least for now. Yet not everyone in her party felt the same.
“Hatnua has no place in the Netanyahu government,” MK Amram Mitzna told Channel 2, citing the results of the talks.
On Monday, the Knesset will hold a plenum meeting to discuss both the crisis in negotiations with the Palestinians and Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard’s continued incarceration.
Meretz led the efforts to gather the 25 signatures necessary to hold the meeting during the Knesset’s recess.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On said at a conference on negotiations in Tel Aviv that she “didn’t have expectations from Netanyahu,” although she hoped that when Livni and Lapid said they wouldn’t stay in a government if there weren’t negotiations, they meant it.
“It turns out that Livni and Lapid are Netanyahu’s collaborators,” Gal-On said. “They are nothing but the government’s fig leaf. They are ignoring the will of the voters and the promises they made not that long ago.”
According to Gal-On, Livni and Lapid “are holding on to their seats so they won’t have to justify to voters the upkeep of settlements and the occupation.
They joined the voices of right-wing settlers in the Netanyahu government and are blaming the end of talks on Palestinians, as if the government did anything in the past year to achieve progress in negotiations.”