"I do not envy the prime minister. We are facing an awful administration," Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat said during a Likud convention in Beersheba Thursday, referring to US President Barack Obama's government.
"Within a week," Livnat added, "construction will start on housing units (in the West Bank) that had been previously approved, and then we will be accused of being cheaters and scoundrels. I know the prime minister is in distress; it is not easy facing the US president, after the latter dragged him through a series of torments.
"I feel uneasy with this unilateral decision; no one will appreciate it, and we will only get slammed for it," Livnat told Likud members in reference the government's decision to halt construction in the settlements for a 10-month period.
The Prime Minister's Office said Minister Livnat's comments against the US administration "do not represent the prime minister's position at all. The prime minister has expressed his appreciation for the strong bond between Israel and the United States time and again – a bond that continues to remain strong throughout President Obama's administration.
"(Netanyahu) also thanked the president and his administration for their commitment to Israel's security and the pursuit of regional peace," the PMO statement read.
Minister Yossi Peled said during the convention he does not believe the Palestinians will return to the negotiation table: "I am skeptical whether the decision to halt construction will help re-start negotiations. I hope I'm wrong. This decision has a time limit; I don't see an option for another extension in 10 months' time. I will not allow the State of Israel to risk its own existence."
Minister Livnat during Likud conference (Photo: Herzel Yosef)
"If (captive soldier) Gilad Shalit is home for the holiday, the government must determine a policy of what is allowed and what isn't allowed; I will demand this of the government. Basic rules must be set for negotiations on prisoners, so that we don't go back to square one again," said Peled.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the construction of 28 educational institutions and public facilities in the West Bank, meant to open for the next school year in September 2010.
"We are all obligated to engage in an open and attentive dialogue with the settler leadership. We are talking about a responsible and serious group of people that demonstrated a considerable amount of self restraint in the past," said Barak.
"While we have a duty to be attentive, we must not get confused – the state means what is says. To whoever asks if the political echelon intends to execute its decision from yesterday, the answer is positive – this is a true test for the Israeli democracy," added Barak.
Minister Livnat said she did not remember whether or not she referred to the Obama Administration as "awful."
"I did not mean to use that word, but I stand by my statement that the US regime is rigid," she said.