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

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

Netanyahu spreads arms 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Netanyahu spreads arms 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As reports surfaced Wednesday that Israel and the Palestinian Authoritywere headed toward renewing negotiations, Prime Minister BinyaminNetanyahu told MKs that talks were brewing, but also defended hisinternationally controversial decision to include Rachel’s Tomb and theCave of the Patriarchs on a list of national heritage sites.
“Itseems that the conditions are being prepared for talks between us andthe Palestinian Authority. It is still not happening,” emphasizedNetanyahu.
“Ultimately, the world does understand – and how itdoes – that this government is aiming for negotiations. That it tookdifficult steps to advance that negotiation. That it both says thingsand does things,” he said.
Netanyahu blamed the Palestiniansfor refusing to enter negotiations and instead “made demands that theyhad never made previously since the first day of negotiations 16 yearsago.”
But Netanyahu also reiterated that “The Cave of thePatriarchs 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 ourheritage for 4,000 years. We must allow the younger generation toconnect to that heritage.
Netanyahu added that just asmaintenance work had been carried out on the Muslim side of the Cave ofthe Patriarchs, the same must be done on the Jewish side.
Inresponse to criticism by Kadima of the government’s decision to includethe 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.
Netanyahuwas speaking during a hearing that was initiated after 40 oppositionMKs signed a demand for the prime minister to address the Knesset onthe subject of “The State of Israel under Netanyahu’s leadership – towhere?”
Addressing the Knesset after Netanyahu, opposition leader Tzipi Livni blasted the premier.
Netanyahu’sadministration, she said, had not made substantial progress in foreignpolicy or domestic affairs during his first year in office. She furtheraccused Netanyahu of having risen to his post through manipulations andpoliticking.
Livni spoke out particularly strongly regardingForeign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s recent attacks against the IsraelPolice for allegedly leaking details of Lieberman’s ongoing criminalinvestigation.
Livni said that she had not originally intendedto discuss the ongoing investigation of the foreign minister, but thatafter watching Lieberman blast the police during a press conferenceearlier in the day, she was moved to speak.
Netanyahu himself did not mention the investigation during his lengthy speech.
“Iheard the deputy prime minister attacking the chief of police,” shesaid. “Who is supposed to defend the Israel Police? The minister incharge of them? You are responsible for the disrespect toward lawenforcement. It is happening in your backyard. Be a prime minister.”
TheLikud was quick to fire back, issuing a statement that “we are sorrythat Tzipi Livni does not act with the same responsibility thatNetanyahu acted when he was the opposition chair, defending Israelagainst international attackers without taking politics intoconsideration.”
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 IsraelPolice.
Prior to Netanyahu’s speech, a number of opposition and coalitionmembers took the podium to attack – and defend – the prime minister andhis government.
Kadima faction chairwoman MK Dalia Itzik called on the prime ministerto form a “true national unity government” by bringing Kadima in as a“full partner.”

Gil Hoffman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.