Livni: Drive for West Bank construction hurts Israel's chances of keeping settlement blocs

“It’s my responsibility to ensure that the settlement blocs are part of Israel," Livni writes on Facebook.

 West Bank settlement city of Ariel (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
West Bank settlement city of Ariel
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni slammed the latest right-wing initiative against a freeze in isolated settlements, warning that it could sabotage efforts to place Jewish West Bank population blocs within Israel’s final borders in any final-status agreement with the Palestinians.
“Any attempt to determine that the fate of isolated settlements is the fate of the settlement blocs is harmful, first and foremost to those blocs, where most of the settlers live,” she wrote on her Facebook page on Sunday.
“It’s my responsibility to ensure that the settlement blocs are part of Israel, and we are working to ensure that this will happen,” she said.
But the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria is “undermining those efforts,” she said. She took it to task for a letter that it published as an ad in Haaretz on Sunday against a freeze of Jewish building in isolated settlements.
On Thursday night, right-wing Knesset lobby group Land of Israel had sent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the letter, which bore the signature of 21 parliamentarians, including coalition chairman MK Yariv Levin (Likud) and seven deputy ministers.
The parliamentarians expressed concerns about reports that the United States would demand a freeze in building outside settlement blocs in return for extending talks with the Palestinians.
“We strongly oppose any freeze of any kind, including outside the blocs,” the MKs wrote. “We would see such an Israeli commitment as burning bridges.”
The deputy ministers who signed the bill are Ze’ev Elkin, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely and Ophir Akunis of Likud, Faina Kirschenbaum of Yisrael Beytenu, and Eli Ben-Dahan and Avraham Wortzman of Bayit Yehudi.
Council deputy-head Yigal Dilmoni said that an additional ad would be published in the media on Monday.
Livni said that the politicians who signed the letter needed to decide if they served the public or the council.
“The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria paid for the ad, but the security, political, economic and moral price will be paid by all of us,” she wrote.
Peace Now charged that the council acted illegally in publishing the ad, and asked attorney- general Yehuda Weinstein to investigate the matter.
“If Knesset members would like to publish their views, they need to use their own budget to do so,” Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer said.
It would be different if the parliamentarians had signed onto a document from a nongovernmental group that included signatures from politicians or personalities outside the Knesset, he said.
But the letter’s signatories are all parliamentarians and the document bears the Knesset seal, he said.
“An organization like the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria can’t sponsor an ad for Knesset members,” Oppenheimer said.
He charged that it was an attempt to skirt the laws of political financing. Many such situations are not as black and white, he said, and “in this case, they went too far.”
Dilmoni dismissed claims of improper financing as “absurd.”
“The council’s objective is to preserve Judea and Samaria. To do so, I will quote everyone who is against it and print everything,” he said.
In this case, he said, the letter was a statement against any potential freeze of settlement building and a call for continued construction in Judea and Samaria.
“Our message to Netanyahu is that you do not have a coalition that will support a freeze,” he said.
He also dismissed Livni’s warning that the country would pay a price for his council’s actions.
“The country is already paying a price for the mistake of withdrawing from Gush Katif,” he countered.
On Friday morning, the Land of Israel lobby group also helped organized an eight-kilometer march in the Jordan Valley to protest against any plans to evacuate Israeli settlements there.
“We know our truth will prevail.
Your settlements are stronger than any attempts to uproot you,” Levin said.
Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar said that the Jordan Valley was critical to Israel’s security and its settlements played an important role in safe guarding the nation.
“The army can be found where the settlements are,” he said. “Without settlements there is no security, and terror reigns.”