PM: Nat'l heritage plan won't be halted

Netanyahu defends controversial decision in Knesset address, Livni blasts PM.

March 4, 2010 04:40
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Ariel Jerozolim

Netanyahu spreads arms 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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As reports surfaced Wednesday that Israel and the Palestinian Authority were headed toward renewing negotiations, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told MKs that talks were brewing, but also defended his internationally controversial decision to include Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs on a list of national heritage sites.

“It seems that the conditions are being prepared for talks between us and the Palestinian Authority. It is still not happening,” emphasized Netanyahu.

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“Ultimately, the world does understand – and how it does – that this government is aiming for negotiations. That it took difficult steps to advance that negotiation. That it both says things and does things,” he said.

Netanyahu blamed the Palestinians for refusing to enter negotiations and instead “made demands that they had never made previously since the first day of negotiations 16 years ago.”

But Netanyahu also reiterated that “The Cave of the Patriarchs is one of the first sites of the Jewish people’s heritage. The Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb have been a part of our heritage for 4,000 years. We must allow the younger generation to connect to that heritage.

Netanyahu added that just as maintenance work had been carried out on the Muslim side of the Cave of the Patriarchs, the same must be done on the Jewish side.

In response to criticism by Kadima of the government’s decision to include the two sites on the list, Netanyahu said that two of the party’s MKs, Tzahi Hanegbi and Shlomo Molla, had asked him to include the sites.

Netanyahu was speaking during a hearing that was initiated after 40 opposition MKs signed a demand for the prime minister to address the Knesset on the subject of “The State of Israel under Netanyahu’s leadership – to where?”

Addressing the Knesset after Netanyahu, opposition leader Tzipi Livni blasted the premier.

Netanyahu’s administration, she said, had not made substantial progress in foreign policy or domestic affairs during his first year in office. She further accused Netanyahu of having risen to his post through manipulations and politicking.

Livni spoke out particularly strongly regarding Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s recent attacks against the Israel Police for allegedly leaking details of Lieberman’s ongoing criminal investigation.

Livni said that she had not originally intended to discuss the ongoing investigation of the foreign minister, but that after watching Lieberman blast the police during a press conference earlier in the day, she was moved to speak.

Netanyahu himself did not mention the investigation during his lengthy speech.

“I heard the deputy prime minister attacking the chief of police,” she said. “Who is supposed to defend the Israel Police? The minister in charge of them? You are responsible for the disrespect toward law enforcement. It is happening in your backyard. Be a prime minister.”

The Likud was quick to fire back, issuing a statement that “we are sorry that Tzipi Livni does not act with the same responsibility that Netanyahu acted when he was the opposition chair, defending Israel against international attackers without taking politics into consideration.”
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a member of Lieberman’s own party, accused Livni of not being “updated,” and said that he had consistently supported the Israel Police.

Prior to Netanyahu’s speech, a number of opposition and coalition members took the podium to attack – and defend – the prime minister and his government.

Kadima faction chairwoman MK Dalia Itzik called on the prime minister to form a “true national unity government” by bringing Kadima in as a “full partner.”

Gil Hoffman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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