Livni Says Right-wing Leader Bennett Stokes Settler Violence

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni pledges not to let cabinet colleague Naftali Bennett allow violent settlers to 'become official Israel.'

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A Yitzhar settler is brought in handcuffs to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, April 10, 2014 Credit: AFP

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has harshly criticized Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, linking his politics with the settler violence at the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar last week.

“There are some in the government who aren’t interested in peace, who are for one state,” Livni told news website Ynet, citing the Habayit Hayehudi party, its leader Bennett and Housing Minister Uri Ariel of the same party.

“They represent Yitzhar. It’s not just a single incident, it’s a harsh ideology of abbreviated [army] service for yeshiva students, out of which spring the rioters of Yitzhar, who want to prevent peace,” she told Ynet’s Hebrew-language service, as translated by Haaretz.

“I didn’t want Bennett in the government and the prime minister didn’t want him either,” Livni said, adding that the alliance between Bennett and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, now finance minister, had won Bennett a seat in the cabinet.

Last week settlers raided a military outpost outside Yitzhar after clashing with Border Police forces who came to demolish illegal structures.

“The rabbis of Yitzhar, who encourage this behavior, are the ones who chose the Habayit Hayehudi ticket, or at least part of it. When we try to promote a slightly more moderate Judaism, they’re the ones who say don’t do it,” Livni said.

“And so everything is connected. This man and his party are damaging Israel’s security. They’re the ones trying to make sure that there’s no peace agreement — that the young men of Yitzhar become official Israel. I won’t let this happen.”

Bennett, for his part, said he didn’t want to clash with Livni, but he wasn’t impressed with her peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

“What Livni has achieved in the nine months of talks is just one prisoner release after another,” he said. “She has brought shame to Israel — not only her, but the whole way these negotiations have been managed.”

Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, meanwhile, chided Bennett for his threat to leave the government if Israeli Arab security prisoners are released.

“Everybody’s flexing his muscles here, sometimes encouraged by the media,” Steinitz told the Knesset television station. “The prime minister shows a bit of toughness, Livni and Lapid threaten him from one side, and when he shows some flexibility, suddenly Bennett makes a threat. That’s no way to run a country.”

Justice Minister Tzipi LivniCredit: AP
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.Credit: Emil Salman