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Livni: Building Decision Could Backfire on Israel

Israel's decision to build in Gush Etzion, Ma'ale Adumim, and Jerusalem could backfire on Israel, Kadima head Tsipi Livni said.
By David Lev
First Publish: 11/3/2011, 1:13 AM

The announcement by Israel that it is to build several thousand homes in Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Ma'ale Adumim is a “punishment” against the Palestinian Authority for its being accepted into UNESCO as a full member, Kadima head Tsipi Livni said Wednesday – and this will not help Israel retain the blocs in a final status agreement.

Livni met with Palestinian Authority head negotiator Sa'eb Erekat during a security conference in Tel Aviv Wednesday. Speaking at the conference, Livni said that “construction as a method of punishing the Palestinians will simply not be understood. It won't help keep the blocs in Israeli hands.”

The nations of the world will condemn the plan, and by doing so, Israel “will only question international consensus.” At the same time, she criticized the PA, saying that “declarations in international forums would not promote an end to the conflict while negotiations would.”

Israel's best bet, she said, was to work with the Palestinian Authority in achieving a final-status agreement “that ends Palestinian claims against Israel.” At the same time, Israel and the PA needed to battle Hamas “which was strong, and now unfortunately is even stronger.” Israel, she said, “must battle those who commit terror against us. Since there is no hope for peace with Hamas we should fight against them and delegitimize them. But this can only work when we work for an agreement with the legitimate Palestinian government."

"But unfortunately this is not happening,” Livni added, and the decision to build more homes in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem right now makes this clear.

“I don't see how this building serves Israeli interests,” she said. “The idea that now we need to build more to punish the Palestinians is something I don't understand.” It was just a punishment of the PA, and would be seen by the rest of the world as a “land grab,” with Israel engineering the crisis just to build some more homes. This, she added, would certainly not endear Israel to the rest of the world.

In fact, she said, the decision could cause more problems than it solved. “In a way, something that was a consensus among Israelis and even with the U.S.” - that the settlement blocs would be retained by Israel in any final-status agreement – may now be in question, because of the perception that Israel is engaged in a “land grab,” Livni said. In the end, she added, the government's decision, ironically, would increase the pressure on Israel for a withdrawal to the 1948 armistice lines.