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Livni: PM’s West Bank building is a campaign move
By GIL HOFFMAN, YAARA SHALOM, AND NIV ELIS
03/12/2012
Finance Minister Steinitz "convinced" world understands plans are a reaction to Palestinian UN upgrade.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed the security cabinet to approve the construction of 3,000 West Bank housing units and the development of the E-1 area between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim in order to increase his chances of winning the January 22 election, former foreign minister Tzipi Livni said Monday.

Livni said Netanyahu sacrificed Israel’s image abroad to win “applause” from voters in Israel. She warned that when Israel will need the help of foreign ministers and ambassadors on security issues, they would turn their back on him because he did not accept their request to stop building in the West Bank.

“This decision isolates Israel, encourages international pressure and will not be implemented anyway,” Livni said. “In one month of dangerous military and diplomatic moves, Netanyahu formed a Hamas state in Gaza, a Palestinian state in the UN, and now, with his response, made Israel appear guilty in the eyes of the world.”

Former defense minister and Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who heads the party’s response team on diplomatic issues, warned that the world was losing its patience with Netanyahu.

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He called the move “a badly timed decision” that risks the loss of support from the United States and from European countries.

“The world is telling Israel ‘enough,’ and the fact that friend-states like Britain and France are considering recalling their ambassadors is a long-reaching issue that can lead Israel to international isolation,” he said.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz downplayed the reaction of the international community.

“I’m convinced that everyone in Europe and the United States understands that we will react” to the Palestinian decision to seek upgraded status at the UN, he said in an interview with Army Radio on Monday.

“How can the Palestinians forgo the peace process?” he asked, characterizing the UN bid as an attack on Israel. “We’re being attacked on two fronts,” he said, with missiles from Gaza and delegitimization from Ramallah.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai went a step further to say Israel does not have the right to build in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, “but rather the obligation” to build.

Referring to the international criticism over Israel’s announcement of plans to construct new units in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Yishai said “Israeli governments for generations have built in Jerusalem as a matter of importance in regards to the country’s security. We do not have the right to build in Jerusalem and its surrounding areas – but rather the obligation.

Putting a question mark on our right to this is like putting a question mark over our right to the land.”

Yishai also said politicians “exploit this time to attack Israeli policies in a desperate attempt to collect seats at the Knesset, doing a disservice to us and revealing their ignorance towards the history of all Israeli governments and their actions.”

Likud MKs accused former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Livni of encouraging international condemnation of Israel. They also slammed Olmert for leaking criticism of Netanyahu that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued in a closeddoor meeting in Washington.

“Olmert’s behavior is shocking,” Likud MK Danny Danon said. “First he backs the Palestinians in the UN, even though it can lead to his own prosecution in the Hague. The next day he attacks the prime minister in public forums abroad.

His behavior reminds us why his party has come apart.”
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