Ministers urge PM not to capitulate on freeze
Ahead of his meeting with US President Obama, ministers try to pressure Netanyahu not to continue settlement building freeze. 'You have committed – and I believe you will meet your commitment – to stop the freeze at the set date,' says Minister Edelstein
Information Minister Yuli Edelstein said before the weekly cabinet meeting, "I ask the prime minister, you committed – and I believe you will meet your commitment – to stop the freeze at the set date. When the prime minister arrives in Washington, he must present a firm stand against continuing the freeze, as he has committed. The freeze ends in September."
Netanyahu is trying to prevent the Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs from approving a bill presented by Deputy Knesset Speaker Carmel Shama (Likud), which would force the prime minister to ask for the Knesset's approval to continue the freeze. Many Likud ministers support the bull, including Edelstein, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon.
The prime minister is expected to face objection from the Shas faction as well. A senior party member said ahead of the cabinet meeting, "We will vote for Carmel Shama's bill. We have committed to stop the freeze, and that's what we'll do."
Meanwhile, officials at the Prime Minister's Office are continuing their intensive discussions with the other coalition factions, led by Yisrael Beiteinu. Tourism Minister Stas Mizezhnikov is representing his party's objection to the freeze, saying that construction in the settlements must be resumed.
"We are a right-wing national government. Labor joined because they are used to sitting in the coalition, and Labor will stay because they have nowhere to go. We must respect the United States for agreeing to the 10-month limit, but the freeze must be stopped," he said.
Another coalition faction trying to pressure the prime minister on the eve of his trip to Washington is Habayit Hayehudi. The party's chairman, Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz turned to the prime minister and said, "Don't capitulate to President Obama.
"With all due respect, and we have respect, we also have our national respect. As far as I know, the prime minister plans to stand firm in the face of the demand to continue the freeze."
Netanyahu told the ministers on the eve of his trip, "There is no alternative to direct talks (with the Palestinians). We must not avoid direct contact. Ramallah is 10 minutes away, within arm's reach. It's time for Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) to agree to meet with me. Those who want peace must hold direct talks."