Vice Premier Silvan Shalom became the first member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s cabinet to criticize his landmark speech to Congress on Wednesday when he told an audience in Kiryat Arba that the prime minister had defied the policies of their Likud Party.
Until Shalom’s remarks, Netanyahu had been backed up by even the most right-wing ministers in his cabinet, while MKs from parties on the Left and the National Union on the Right took turns bashing him.
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Tzipi Hotovely and Danny Danon were the only Likud MKs who criticized Netanyahu in the aftermath of the speech.
Speaking at a Bible quiz contest for high school-aged girls, Shalom took issue with Netanyahu’s statement that “in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s borders.”
Shalom said leaving Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria under Palestinian control was “not my view and not the policy of the Likud.”
Shalom also called for keeping Hebron in any agreement with the Palestinians and for adding Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus to the list of national heritage sites.
Netanyahu was greeted upon his return to Jerusalem by a small group of young Likud activists who protested the concessions he made in his speech to Congress. But even the top hawks in Likud defended Netanyahu in interviews on Wednesday.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said even though he himself would never lift his hand in favor of relinquishing territory, he understood the need for negotiations and he appreciated Netanyahu setting red lines in his speech to Congress.
Vice premier Moshe Ya’alon said Israel was not isolated internationally and that the US wants to see a strong Israel.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan called upon Kadima to
“look at the wider national interest instead of its narrow political
interests” and join a national-unity government. Kadima immediately rejected the offer.
A Telesker poll published in Ma’ariv
on Wednesday found that Likud
continued to strengthen against Kadima. The poll predicted that Likud
would win 30 seats, Kadima 27, Israel Beiteinu 16, Shas 10 and Labor
eight if an election were held now.
Asked who was more fit to be prime minister, 36.9 percent said
Netanyahu, 28.3% said opposition leader Tzipi Livni, 9.2% said Foreign
Minister Avigdor Lieberman, 2.6% said Defense Minister Ehud Barak and
18.2% answered none of the above.