Limor Livnat: 'We Are in the Hands of a Terrible U.S. Gov't'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday denounced the negative remarks made by Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) about the Obama administration.

Yesterday Livnat slammed the government's decision to agree to a 10-month settlement freeze. She also criticized the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, saying "We have fallen into the hands of a terrible U.S. administration."

"Livnat's remarks in no way represent the stance of Prime Minister Netanyahu," a statement from the Prime Minister's Bureau said. "The prime minister has stated his appreciation for the strong bond between the United States and Israel many times, which continues with the Obama administration."

Netanyahu's bureau went on to thank Obama and his government for their continued commitment to Israel's security and for their efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

On Wednesday Netanyahu announced the 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank. Criticizing the move, Livnat said, "No Israeli government has ever made such a decision, and I ask myself what are we getting from it?"

"This is a unilateral step," Livnat said at a Likud conference in Be'er Sheva. Despite past hopes, she added, "we know that the Palestinians will not enter into negotiations with us."

Livnat added that in a week's time, when a tractor begins constructing houses already approved before the current agreement, the entire world will denounce Israel as a liar. Livnat also said that "it is not easy to stand up ... against the American President."

International response to the freeze

Yesterday Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to issue a temporary freeze order, but at the same time allowed the construction of 28 new public buildings in settlements.

Meanwhile, Haaretz has learned that the state is expected to ask the Supreme Court for more time to evacuate illegal outposts. The State Attorney's Office is expected to update the Supreme Court by next week on three court rulings that have not been carried out, for the evacuation of outposts at Eli, Horsha, and Netiv Ha'avot, as well as six other locations in the West Bank.

Haaretz also learned that in discussions on the matter between security and law officials, the state intends to ask the court for more time in order to prepare a suitable policy for razing the illegal outposts, in view of the developments related to the freeze in settlement construction.

For its part, efforts were underway yesterday to maximize the impact of the freeze on the international arena. So far, the Israeli announcement had not had a warm reception in the international community. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the decision to freeze settlements "is a step in the right direction, and its implementation would be a positive contribution to peace."

Similar statements were issued by the German government, while the government of Britain emphasized in its statement that it was displeased by the fact that the freeze was not absolute - in other words does not include East Jerusalem. The Russian Foreign Ministry also issued a statement calling on Israel to freeze settlement construction completely.

Yesterday, Israel relayed messages to members of the European Union and other western countries, calling on them to pressure the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states to resume negotiations with Israel. In its message, Israel also called on friendly countries to help convince the Arab world to avoid unilateral steps in light of the government decision to freeze settlement construction for 10 months.