PM on EU decision: I will not allow harm to settlers
News of EU decision to legally differentiate Israel, West Bank prompts PM to call meeting with Livni, Bennett. Lapid calls decision misled, Ya'alon says West Bank policy will not change; Yachimovich calls on PM to enter negotiations, promises to support
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a meeting with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett stressing that "We will not follow any demands regarding our borders. These issues will be resolved only through direct negotiations."
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The prime minister added: "I would expect that those who wish to see peace and regional stability would deal with this topic only after dealing with a number of more pressing regional issues, such as the Syrian civil war, or the Iranian race towards nuclear arms."
West Bank construction (Photo: AFP)
Netanyahu further stressed "I will not allow the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem to be hurt."
A source with the Foreign Ministry claimed that the EU passed on a draft of the decision to Israel only at the beginning of last week and requested a response within five days.
"We think that the majority of Europe's foreign ministers were not involved. In the past, there was a general decision by the ministers, but what happened here was decision taken by the (European) commission. Netanyahu will demand clarifications from (Catherine) Ashton and will work to block the move," the source said.
After the meeting with Netanyahu and Bennett, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that "the decision is a jolting wakeup call. It saddens me that we have reached this point, but I hope that it will motivate all those who think we can live with the current stalemate."
Livni, who is also the designated leader of the Israeli negotiation team during any future peace talks with the Palestinians, added "Any Israeli initiative will be preferable to an international one-sided one. Once negotiations begin, the Europeans will see that Israel wants to set final borders, but only through negotiations."
Finance Minister Yair Lapid said: "This decision is another in a long line of decisions that isolate Israel. Time is not in out favor, and every day that Israel does not engage in peace talks is a day in which our international status sustains more damage."
"Nevertheless," Lapid added, "this is a miserable decision, which was made in very bad timing and thus sabotages the efforts that US Secretary of State John Kerry is putting into bringing the sides back to the negotiation table.
"This decision signals to the Palestinians that there is no economic or international price to be paid for their continued refusal to resume negotiation; it leads them to believe that Israel will succumb to international and economic pressure."
Lapid promised not to stop at words and take action, claiming that he intends to "appeal to our friends in the European Union and explain to them that their decision damages the very end they are attempting to achieve, as it pushes peace farther away instead of bringing it closer."
West Bank policy
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that the government will continue with its current policy in the West Bank.
"It is not new that many countries in the world refer to Judea and Samaria as occupied territory, and according to this they act. We have our policies and will continue to abide by and according to our interests," Ya’alon said.
Regarding reports of John Kerry's expected visit to Jordan Tuesday evening, Ya'alon said: "I am more than aware of Kerry's efforts; he has been hard at work for some months now to bring us and the Palestinians to the negotiation table.
"At this point the Palestinians are refusing to talk until we fulfill certain preconditions. We have said so clearly – we are willing to return to negotiations immediately and without preconditions; we are willing to talk long and hard about everything – but at this point the Palestinians refuse, and hence (Kerry's) efforts have yet to bare fruit."
Political security net
Labor Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich also responded to the EU's decision to ban agreements with Israel which include settlements, saying that "the increasing diplomatic isolation is causing harm to the country and the market, and poses a strategic threat no less severe than the one posed by the sophisticated weapons aimed at us.
"Nevertheless," Yachimovich added, "it is very unfortunate that instead of supporting and helping the Americans' efforts to resume negotiation, the European Union focuses on sanctions and bans."
Yachimovich, the opposition leader, also called on the prime minister to hold peace talks with the Palestinians as soon as possible, with the real intent of reaching a final agreement, "not for the sake of the Europeans, the Americans or the Palestinians, but for Israel.
MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) also responded to the decision, saying that it was "good and appropriate, better late than never."
MK Tibi added that: "The decision firmly fixes the fact that the settlements are illegitimate, and the recognition of this fact is trickling into the entire world."
A senior Palestinian official welcomed the EU move.
"This is the beginning of new era," Hanan Ashrawi said. "Israel should listen carefully and should understand that this occupation cannot continue without any kind of accountability."
According to a Jerusalem sources, the estrangement of Israeli research institutes is only the first step in a long process against Israeli institutes. "This decision is likely to exacerbate additional steps the EU is planning to take against Israel. We are still trying to understand its implications, but this is far-reaching. This moves needs to be halted.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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