Leading Israeli politicians have leveled harsh criticism at government's decision to approve the construction
of thousands of housing units in the territories, a move that has sparked a major diplomatic crisis with several European countries.
"A leader must bring the world closer to us, but (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu
is distancing the world. This must stop," Hat'nua chairwoman Tzipi Livni
"The Netanyahu government is endangering Israel.
The decision to build (in the territories) isolates Israel and invites international pressure. In one month of perilous conduct, Netanyahu established a Hamas
state in Gaza and a Palestinian state in the UN,"
Minister Gilad Erdan, from the ruling Likud party, defended the government's decision. "Why are you all so shocked? In which country was the first arrest warrant for an Israeli politician issued? In Britain, after Operation Cast Lead,
an arrest warrant was issued for Livni."
Erdan attacked the opposition members, saying "you are holding the prime minister responsible for the fact that there are not negotiations and no peace, despite the fact that (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas does not condemn the rocket fire on Israeli citizens and dedicates a new square named after shahids who murdered women and children here every week. Despite all this, to you he is still a partner. And then you are still surprised when the European nations do not vote with us?"
Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett
also addressed the European measures against Netanyahu's decision to expand settlement building. "To get out of this diplomatic avalanche Netanyahu must state clearly whether he supports or opposes a Palestinian state. If his position is not known, the world will never be able to accept it."
Labor Knesset Member Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said, "The world is losing its patience with Netanyahu's irresponsible policy. The decision to build 3,000 housing units in Jerusalem came at the worst time and will contribute nothing to Israel's interests."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai
backed the decision to build in the so-called "E1" zone east of Jerusalem. "Israeli governments have always built in Jerusalem and in all other areas that are important, both diplomatically and from a security standpoint. We don’t have a right to build in Jerusalem, we have an obligation to build there."
Moran Azulay is a Ynet and Yedioth Ahronoth correspondent