Livni Attacks Jewish Home for 'Derailing' Negotiations
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni attacked the Jewish Home party Thursday, accusing it of deliberately seeking to sabotage talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) by advocating construction projects for Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
Speaking just hours before the arrival of US Secretary of State John Kerry on his second visit within a week, Livni - who also serves as Israel's chief negotiator with the PA - claimed the Jewish Home's efforts were "deliberately" aimed at "derailing" the ongoing negotiations.
"More building, more announcements of building in isolated settlements are meant to prevent us reaching peace," she told an audience at Tel Aviv University in remarks broadcast Thursday on public radio.
"That is their deliberate intention, to derail the negotiations. To cause the other side to walk out of the room," she said.
Jewish Home controls the housing ministry, giving it a key role in promoting Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria - areas Livni and her left-wing Hatnua party insist should be ceded to the Palestinian Authority.
"When one speaks of the Jewish Home's veto power in the government, everyone is concerned with its veto on issues of religion and state," Livni said, in reference to one of the central coalition deals between the ruling Likud-Beytenu faction and Jewish Home, which granted the latter the right to veto bills regarding religion and state. That veto has proved somewhat contentious with the more left-leaning coalition factions - including the center-left Yesh Atid party, which has seen its push for civil and gay marriage thwarted by the right-wing Jewish Home.
But according to Livni, "They have another veto - with more building (in Judea and Samaria), they place a veto on peace. They must not be allowed to use this informal veto, this illegitimate veto," she demanded.
Livni herself has been accused of undermining talks in the past by contradicting the government's official stance and independently offering PA leaders much more generous offers than Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed her to put on the table - including a retreat from the Jordan Valley and the division of Israel's capital Jerusalem.
Kerry is due to arrive in the evening for another round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at driving forward the peace talks, which have floundered in the face of the PA's refusal to accept any of the compromise deals proposed so far.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud-Beytenu) said the talks would go nowhere as long as the PA refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and to accept an Israeli military presence in the strategically-important Jordan Valley.
"So far the Palestinians say 'no' to everything; so Kerry can come here many more times but... I don't think anything is going to change," he told public radio.
During the trip, Kerry will meet Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, before heading to Jordan on Friday from where he will continue on to Asia.