Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's emissaries at Friday's coalition talks between Likud-Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi told the party that a moratorium would be placed on settlement construction immediately upon the formation of the new government, Channel 2 reported.
The move was posed as "payback" for the practice among residents of West Bank settlements of joining Likud en masse in order to back hawks in party primaries with no intention of voting for the party in general elections. Likud officials have complained of the practice for years.
Likud Beytenu denied the report on Saturday, saying that none of its coaliton negotiators had told Bayit Yehudi officials that Netanyahu planned to implement a settlement freeze.
Only a third of the settlers who joined the Likud for primaries actually voted for the party in January's general election, according to Channel 2.The Jerusalem Post revealed days after the general election
that a dozen West Bank settlements had more Likud members than people who voted for Likud Beytenu.
Shilo in Samaria has 303 Likud members, but only 127 people voted for Likud Beytenu there. Yitzhar in northern Samaria, which has 93 Likud members, had only 21 Likud Beytenu votes.
In the Jewish community in Hebron, there are 59 party members, but only 21 voted Likud Beytenu. In Beit El, which has 491 members, only 212 voted Likud Beytenu.
There were also fewer Likud Beytenu votes than Likud members in Ofra, Elon Moreh, Revava, Itamar, Kedumim, Mitzpe Yeriho, Otniel and Eli.
Likud activist Barak Herscowitz compiled the numbers for his blog, Pa’amon Haherut (“Liberty Bell”). “For years, there has been a problem with settlers joining the Likud and not voting for the party in general elections,” Herscowitz said. “What they are doing is not illegal, but they are taking advantage of the system to gain power and influence.”
According to Channel 2, Likud Beytenu representatives told Bayit Yehudi MK Uri Ariel on Friday that the next government would set out immediately to freeze building in all settlements outside of the major settlement blocs.
Channel 2 quoted sources close to Netanyahu as saying there would be grave consequences for the settlers "betrayal" of the prime minister and Likud.Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.