'Netanyahu's Refusal to Extend Settlement Freeze Is Hurting Israel'

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni says PM rejected a proposed Likud-Kadima government that would 'do the right thing, in both domestic and foreign matters.'

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Israel must yield to the U.S. proposal to extend its recently expired settlement building freeze by two months, opposition leader Tzipi Livni said Friday, blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightist government for weakening Israel's security and world standing.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni testifies before the Turkel Commission, October 25, 2010Credit: Daniel Bar-On

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been deadlocked over Israel's refusal to extend its moratorium on settlement construction, with U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly pressuring Israel to extend the freeze by two months in order to allow recently relaunched direct peace negotiations to resume.

Referring to the reported American offer, Livni, spkeaing befor the Israeli Farmers Association on Friday, asked: Why not comply with the demand to extend the freeze by two months? So certain people can hold on to their seats in the coalition, who would have stayed there anyway? Does that compare to our strategic relationship with the U.S.? Israel needs to stop defining itself by the threats surrounding it, and start promoting a vision. We don't have to be united by threats - that is not a common factor."

Livni continued its attack on Netanyahu's cabinet, saying his " rightist government has been outspoken, pounding on the table, but Israel is weaker for it."

"The government talks tough but Israel's interests are being damaged. They spoke of security, and damaged security. We can't rally the world by constantly saying no. We need to say 'Yes' from time to time too," Livni said.

The opposition leaders also spoke of the possibility of her party, Kadima, entering into the coalitionin order to advance Israel's peace drive, saying that Israel wished to enter talks under "conditions much worse than before."

"I've told the prime minister in the past, and have also told the public, that a completely different government needs to be formed, a Likud-Kadima government, one which would do the right thing in both domestic and foreign matters," Livni said, adding, however, that "the prime minister chose differently, and this is his choice."

Late last month, Netanyahu and Livni were expected to meet, with officials speculating that the premier was weighing the possibility of welcoming Kadima into the coalition ahead of a potential renewed moratorium on Israeli construction in West Bank settlements..

Palestinian negotiators have recently put the brakes on freshly renewed direct peace negotiations with Israel over the resumption of settlement construction at the end of September.

Meanwhile, senior Kadima officials have claimed that the premier had been incessantly attempting to break up the largest opposition party, vying for the possibility that breakaway Kadima MKs would join the coalition in the eventuality of a withdrawal by the Labor party.

Kadima officials and Netanyahu aides attempted to downplay the importance of the planned meeting, the second such meeting in recent weeks, indicating the fact that a date for the gathering had not even been set.

The Prime Minister's Office responded to the reported contacts between Netanyahu and Livni, saying that the PM was "currently not engaged in any talks to expand the coalition."



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