MK Tzipi Livni, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s new coalition partner, expressed on Saturday her objection to Israeli construction in the area known as E1 as well as in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, often wrongly described by anti-Israeli media as an "illegal settlement in east Jerusalem".
Speaking to Channel 2’s “Meet the Press”, the Hatnua chairwoman said that Israel should renew peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and “avoid provocations that only turn the world against us.”
Livni, who according to the coalition agreement with Netanyahu will be tasked with leading the negotiations with the PA, added, “I believe that the Prime Minister honestly intends to restart the peace process.”
The Interior Ministry recently decided to go ahead with plans to build 1,500 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, though it reduced the number of homes to be built, which was originally set to 1,600.
The Ramat Shlomo project, which has dragged on for years, has yet to see one shovel touch the ground. Nevertheless, a routine announcement involving part of the processing set off a diplomatic firestorm during a visit to Israel by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in March 2010. After receiving basic authorization by Interior Minister Eli Yishai in August 2011, the plan was quietly shelved.
In December, it was revived in the wake of the de facto recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a sovereign state by the United Nations General Assembly, which passed a resolution approving its new status as a non-member observer state.
Ramat Shlomo is located in northern Jerusalem, between Ramot with 60,000 Jewish residents and the Har Hotzvim Industrial Park. The area was empty hills before the reunification of the city in 1967.
Israel also approved construction in the E1 area, which connects between Jerusalem and Maaleh Adumim, after the PA was recognized by the UN. Netanyahu faced international criticism after the government approved new construction in the area. However, the government stuck to its plans, inviting tenders for new homes.
The project won approval from Defense Minister Ehud Barak, but last month it was reported that Netanyahu was delaying sending it onward to a planning committee, essentially shelving the project.
Netanyahu’s appointment of Livni to lead the negotiations has been criticized by the Bayit Yehudi, whose members warned that having Livni in the coalition makes it difficult for their party to join as well.
When Livni conducted negotiations under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert it was reported that the two had agreed to give up part of Jerusalem to the PA. Livni rejected the allegations at the time, but former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has revealed in her memoir that Olmert offered PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas 94% of Judea and Samaria, as well as shared control over Jerusalem. Abbas rejected the offer.
On Wednesday, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett attacked the agreement between the Likud and Hatnua, reminding that Livni was ready to split Jerusalem and even gave up on the city of Ariel.
Hatnua rejected Bennett’s remarks and even accused of him lying when it said, “Livni never gave up on Ariel and never negotiated about Jerusalem, but carefully maintained Israel's national interests. In politics, telling the truth is also an option.”