Knesset Member Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) held a conference in the Knesset Wednesday for the heads of Judea and Samaria settlers, in order to create a united front against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan to freeze construction in settlements.
Officials said the freeze may create problems for the prime minister with rightists in the coalition. However a refusal to halt construction may harm relations with the Labor Party.
The gathering was attended by 20 leaders of settlements in the West Bank. They agreed that over the next month more pressure should be placed on Netanyahu to renege on the decision to freeze.
Noam Arnon, of the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Hebron, said the settlers must limit Netanyahu as his government could not legitimately halt construction. "We can't have a government that behaves worse than that of Olmert," one speaker said. "We won't allow a construction freeze; we won't allow him to break left."
Some said the prime minister was deviating from the policy that had won him his position. "People need to be faithful to what they promised during the elections," the speaker said.
Netanyahu with German president in Berlin (Photo: AFP)
The anti-Netanyahu sentiment demonstrates a departure from the settlers' policy of attacking Defense Minister Ehud Barak for their grievances. "Barak is no longer the only address. We need to put pressure on the prime minister," the Yesha Council stated.
The leaders plan to hold various Likud conferences bringing together those MKs who oppose Netanyahu's initiative, including Gilad Erdan, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Hotovely, and Danny Danon, among others.
Likud officials said the prime minister had been holding talks with his underlings in an effort to calm them prior to negotiations on settlements with the US and the Palestinians.
'Coalition rejects Palestinian state'
Meanwhile, other rightist parties have begun to object to the recent warming between Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said Wednesday he may be willing to meet Netanyahu.
MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said he hoped Netanyahu would "remember that most of the coalition rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state and the uprooting of communities. Netanyahu must represent national policy and not that of the Labor Party".
But a Likud official said that "what was settled between the prime minister and Abbas was settled by the Americans. Netanyahu announced two days ago that negotiations would be renewed so all of these announcements were expected."
Coalition chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) told Ynet that the Palestinians had "understood they need to hold negotiations with a nationalist government". He said the government would stand up for Israel's national interests.
"The negotiations must not harm normal life in the settlements and their development in Judea and Samaria," Elkin said of the impending construction freeze.
"In negotiations they will have to prove to Israel that they want peace no less than we do," Akunis said. "There will be no freezing of construction in Judea and Samaria and we will not disrupt the lives of people there."
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report