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Rifts over settlement policy surface in cabinet meeting
By HERB KEINON
27/01/2014
Bennett: Livni’s actions encourage boycotts against Israel.
 
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni continued her battle against isolated settlements in the cabinet on Sunday, protesting that some 35 settlements beyond the security fence are on a list of communities on the periphery that may be eligible for preferential treatment.

In a sharp exchange, Livni urged that the debate on the list of the country’s priority communities that is drawn up anew each year be postponed, and that the communities included be reconsidered in order to weigh the implications that putting them on the list would have on the peace process and on Israel’s standing in the world.

The criteria would encourage people to move to those settlements, Livni argued.

Finance Minster Yair Lapid said that the criteria for the periphery communities were applied equally. The Treasury’s position is that criteria for preferential treatment are based on location, size, and distance from the country’s center, and that these criteria are objective and must be applied equally.

The discussion was postponed because of time constraints, one cabinet source said, and will be resumed next week.

The rift inside the government over the settlements also surfaced when Economy Minister Naftali Bennett brought a report on anti-Semitism to the cabinet, ahead of Monday’s commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Bennett, when presenting the report, said that anti-Semitism is changing its face from traditional anti-Semitism to now “boycotts against Israel.”

Tourism Minister Uzi Landau added that criticism of the country’s settlement policy also stemmed in part from anti-Semitism.

Livni challenged those assertions, saying the government’s job is to struggle against anti-Semitism, but that linking anti-Semitism to criticism of the government because of its settlements policy “harms the struggle against anti-Semitism and pushes away from us important allies, who are being accused of anti-Semitism because they are critical of the settlements.”

Livni said that the “refuge” of all those who do not want a diplomatic agreement is to charge that criticism of Israel’s settlement policy is because of anti-Semitism.

“Will the criticism that will come because the government approves tax breaks to the isolated settlements be because of anti-Semitism? No, it is criticism of a decision that encourages settlement in settlements the world does not see as Israeli territory,” she said.

Bennett, meanwhile, said Livni’s actions were encouraging boycotts against Israel.

“Those who run around everywhere screaming about boycotts are increasing the pressure on Israel,” he said. “If I am negotiating with someone, and someone from our side begs, ‘don’t boycott us,’ that weakens us.”
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