Livni and French MP clash over Gaza during EU speech
Cohen Bendit questions Israel's Gaza checkpoints; EU lawmakers say Israel has to do more to stop West Bank settlement expansion.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni verbally clashed with French Member of Parliament Danny Cohen Bendit during her address before the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee on Tuesday.
As Livni recounted the progress Israel has made in negotiations with the Palestinians during the past year, Cohen Bendit interrupted her, asking, "How can you talk about progress when Palestinian children are detained at checkpoints and can't go to school?"
Livni responded angrily to Cohen Bendit's question, raising her voice and saying "the children in Sderot and in the Gaza vicinity sometimes can't go to school because of the rocket strikes. Israel is not interested in making Palestinian children suffer, but it is impossible to ignore the security situation and ultimately, the checkpoints are designed to prevent suicide attacks. Israeli children are attacked every day from the areas which Israel evacuated."
Also Tuesday, EU lawmakers told Livni that her country has to do more to stop the expansion of West Bank settlements. They said settlers' moves to defend their homes there were threatening Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
The foreign minister said it was no longer official Israeli policy to expand settlements in the West Bank and the government has been trying to reduce them since peace talks restarted last year.
She faced questions about what Israel was doing to alleviate the situation in Gaza, which is suffering from a shortage of fuel and basic items due to an Israeli security blockade imposed last year after Islamist militant group Hamas violently seized power in Gaza.
Livni said Israel was allowing in humanitarian aid to ease the crisis there.
Livni also met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on including Israel in key EU projects. Israel is already involved in the EU's high-tech research programs but also wants a role in customs, environmental, health and other areas.