Knesset members on Tuesday evening expressed their objection to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's
proposal to extend the party's membership application period in order to encourage Kadima
activists to "return home".
Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara told the Likud Central Committee convening in Tel Aviv's Exhibition Park that "those who destroyed the Likud have no room amongst us."
After getting off the stage, he said, "There is no room amongst us for traitors and deserters. We will not take back those who worked to destroy the Likud."
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Central Committee that "unity has always been important to us, since the days of the late Menachem Begin
to this very day."
He said that he had aspired to form "a wide unity government expressing all parts of the people. A real unity government. Unfortunately, despite my very generous offer to the Kadima chairwoman nine months ago, she did not accept it. She refused for her own reasons." The audience responded to the remarks by booing Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni.
Netanyahu addresses Likud Central Committee, Livni booed (Photo: Yaron Brener)
Addressing the peace process, Netanyahu said that he hoped to see willingness on the part of the Palestinians to resume the process. "I have just come from Egypt,
and I am very encouraged by (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak's commitment to advance the peace process with the Palestinians."
According to Netanyahu, It's time to restart the diplomatic process, resume the peace process. It's time for everyone to join in so we can do it."
Netanyahu clarified that Israel
responds to any incident of firing from the Gaza Strip. "This government is doing and has done important things," he said. "In terms of security, you remember what happened here. There were years a Qassam would come down and then another one, and then a missile, and then another missile, sometimes mortar shells, sometimes in an open area, a constructed area. The drizzle has turned into rain and the rain eventually turned into a storm.
"We are acting differently. Our security policy is a clear policy. We will not accept firing on our territory with indifference. Any firing incident is answered, no matter where it lands. There is an immediate and firm response," the prime minister said, praising the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet for the assassination
of the terrorists responsible for last week's shooting attack
in the West Bank.
The prime minister also referred to Iranian nuclear program,
calling on the international community to impose harsh sanction immediately. "This matter will definitely keep us and the entire international community busy in the near future," he said.
MK Tzipi Hotovely strongly opposed Netanyahu's proposal and called on the Likud to leave Kadima in the opposition. "We must tell all Kadima members, your place is not in the Likud. People who voted for the expulsion of Gush Katif, people who have nothing to do with the Likud's values, belong in the opposition."
According to Hotovely, "We will only bring in people who will be ready to be loyal to the movement's values."
Hotovely went on to slam the construction freeze
in West Bank settlements. "We were elected to build, not to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria," she said. "We will not accept the decision to freeze construction. It will not stop after 10 months."
Despite the objections, the members of the Likud Central Committee passed Netanyahu's proposal by a wide majority. The membership application period will continue until April 29 for first-time membership applications and until July 2011 for returning members.
At the same time, Kadima Chairwoman Livni was applauded while delivering a speech at Tel Aviv University, when a young man present in the audience told her that he supports her political conduct over the past week. "Thank you for making it possible to still believe in ideology," the man said, and the audience replied with a round of applause.
Livni said that she had known from the very beginning that Netanyahu's offer to join the coalition was a political maneuver. She also slammed his diplomatic conduct.
"I believe that the majority of the public in the State of Israel understands things better than its leadership, which is behind in terms of its courage in making the required decisions. Sitting on the fence is an unforgivable thing when you are a leader," she said.
Amnon Meranda contributed to this report