Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua), who is in charge of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA), said Tuesday she preferred the Galilee and the Negev over what she called “isolated settlements” in Judea and Samaria.
Livni, who spoke at the 7th annual Galilee Conference organized by the Ministry for Development of the Negev and the Galilee, said that these so-called “isolated settlements" turn Israel into a country that is boycotted.
"In the context of priorities, I prefer the Galilee, Kiryat Shmona, Tiberias and the Negev over isolated settlements outside the ‘settlement blocs’,” she said.
“This is my Zionist and national priority: Instead of annexing settlements outside the blocs and turning Israel into a country that is isolated and boycotted, I prefer to culturally, economically and socially annex the Galilee and the Negev, bring them to the center and produce a country that is connected and prosperous and which can continue to bring investors and develop the Galilee and the Negev,” added Livni.
"It is not enough to say the word ‘Zionism’ and feel good about it,” she continued. “Zionism means maintaining Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We must reach an agreement [with the Palestinian Authority]. The majority of Israelis want an agreement. We cannot led this opportunity slip away this time. This is Zionism.”
Also participating at the conference was opposition leader and Labor party Chairman MK Yitzchak Herzog, who accused the government of preferring to provide funding for “the settlements” instead of the Negev and the Galilee.
"Netanyahu and the Likud ministers aren’t interested in the periphery at all, only in settlements and in construction beyond the Green Line, where the most powerful lobbyists are located,” charged Herzog.
He continued, “Whereas here in the Galilee we are fighting for every shekel, the situation in the settlements is completely different. Don’t believe me? Here! MK Stav Shaffir, from my party, conducted some research and found that in the last two months, the government gave to the settlements, through the Finance Committee, a total of 421.8 million shekels. Why is this money not invested in the Galilee or the Negev? This suggests that in Israel there is no rational planning, only planning that is politically motivated.”
Tuesday’s comments came as Livni’s “peace partners” in the PA continue to incite against Israel.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas threatened to take diplomatic and legal action against Israel on Tuesday, calling Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria a "cancer."
"We will not remain patient as the settlement cancer spreads, especially in (eastern) Jerusalem, and we will use our right as a UN observer state by taking political, diplomatic and legal action to stop it," declared Abbas.
The declaration comes the same day that Abbas declared an Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley would constitute a "red line which cannot be crossed." Abbas's opposition came in response to a vote on Sunday by Israel's Ministerial Committee on Legislation in favor of a bill to annex the region.
Recent reports indicated that Livni was offering the PA negotiating team more than Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's envoy to the talks wishes to offer them.
Sources close to Netanyahu have accused Livni of undermining the talks in the past.