Defense minister’s proposal part of larger plan to expand settlement construction; Livni threatens to vote against, says it would turn national tragedy into political issue.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed Monday night that Israel’s response to the murder of the three teenagers in the West Bank include a wave of settlement construction and the establishment of a new settlement in memory of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, a senior Israeli official told Haaretz.
An Israeli defense official confirmed the details and said that Ya’alon suggested the new settlement be established in the G’vaot outpost, frozen in 2002, which is located between Alon Shvut and Beitar Ilit. The Defense Ministry specified that the outpost is located on state lands and that the government already made a decision to turn it into a settlement.
During Monday’s cabinet meeting, Ya’alon presented a plan prepared by the Civil Administration with various actions aimed at strengthening the Israeli settlement enterprise. The suggestions include promotion of planning procedures and the publication of construction tenders for thousands of new units in the settlement blocs. The plan also includes a proposal for a new settlement on state lands inside one of the blocs, to be named after the three victims.
Establishment of a new settlement conflicts with the commitment the Israeli government made to the U.S. government, under both President Bush and President Obama.
According to the senior official, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni opposed the move and threatened to vote against the cabinet decision. Livni said that if Israel presents settlement construction as a sanction or punishment in response to the murder, it will hurt the little bit of legitimacy Israel has from the international community to retain the settlements blocs in any future deal with the Palestinians.
Livni evoked the many condemnations of the murders expressed by a slew of world leaders, and argued that settlement construction would damage Israel’s international backing and hurt the national consensus surrounding kidnapping.
“It is wrong to split the nation along ideological lines of construction that the entire nation is not behind,” Livni said. “Such a move could also hurt our international legitimacy for a military operation against Hamas. Settlement construction at this stage would minimize the murders and transform it from a national issue to a political one.”
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett expressed a certain amount of support for Livni’s stance, stating that he objects to an Israeli response limited to settlement construction that does not include a comprehensive military operation against Hamas.
However, a heated erupted at the cabinet meeting, when Bennett called the proposed actions raised “weak and disgraceful” and threatened to vote against them. As a result, Netanyahu decided to postpone the vote and schedule another meeting for Tuesday night.
According to a source present at the meeting who preferred to remain nameless, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and Israel Defense Forces officers suggested a strike on several Hamas facilities in the Gaza Strip, most of which …read more