Opposition succeeds in forcing discussion of foreign policy

Opposition succeeds in f

Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's attempts to avoid discussions of foreign policy and international negotiations in the Knesset, the parliament on Tuesday was the locus of two conferences touching on the government's policy in the West Bank. Hours after the conferences, opposition officials announced that they had acquired enough signatures to force the prime minister to answer complaints regarding his foreign policy during a special debate on the Knesset floor Wednesday. During a discussion initiated by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) titled "Two States for Two Peoples - Vision or Dream?" Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni attacked Netanyahu's foreign policy - and recalled longingly the Olmert administration's negotiations with Palestinian counterparts. "An event of this type, where Israelis and Palestinians meet in Jerusalem, was a routine occurrence last year," recalled Livni. "An Israeli prime minister, I, and others, met with Palestinians and held negotiations. The idea that Israelis and Palestinians gather together in a room to talk has turned into a rare thing and we must return to the point at which we arrive at decisions. Last year there were two sides that shared trust and the whole world knew that there was no need to get involved." Livni emphasized that she had maintained red lines in those talks, such as Jerusalem, but that the talks themselves must continue. She also emphasized that a border "must respect the reality that has been created in the past 40 years, including refugees, Jerusalem and settlement blocs "which I want to see as part of the state." Livni also reiterated Kadima's argument that without two states for Jews and Palestinians, Israel cannot remain a Jewish and democratic state, and raised an eyebrow at the number of MKs who refrained from attending the conference. Both Palestinian and Israeli experts presented data at the conference through which they argued that under specific conditions, the majority in both populations supports a two-state solution. The gap, they said, was in specific details. On the Palestinian side, support for a two-state solution plummeted among those surveyed the moment they were asked to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, and among Israelis, support dropped when asked about a Palestinian state formed along pre-1967 boundaries. A second hearing held in the Knesset later in the day attacked the prime minister's policies from the right, as MK Danny Danon (Likud) gathered over four dozen contractors, local officials, rabbis, community leaders and families who have been financially impacted by the recent freeze on building in the West Bank. During the meeting, which was attended by fellow Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely as well as by representatives from Shas and United Torah Judaism, citizens spoke out against the impacts of the freeze. Danon used the opportunity to announce a bill that he says has multi-party support to speed up the financial compensation for those who have suffered monetary setbacks. Danon filed the private member's bill on Sunday, proposing the establishment of a committee within the Prime Minister's Office that will offer compensation to all those residents of the West Bank who were directly impacted by the freeze. "The failures regarding treatment of disengagement evacuees was more than enough," said Danon. "I have been fighting against this Draconian order from day one and I will not allow residents of Judea and Samaria to be classified as second-class citizens. The building freeze indiscriminately targets young couples, families and children and could destroy their lives in a vicious manner. The authorities are more concerned with the process of enforcement than they are in caring for the residents of Judea and Samaria."