Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has begun efforts to persuade Likud cabinet
members to support a deal with the US in which Israel would limit construction
in Judea and Samaria for 60 days in return for American promises, Likud
officials confirmed on Sunday.
While the proposal has not been finalized,
Netanyahu’s associates have started making inquiries with the ministers, asking
them to be flexible.
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The benefits would reportedly include upgrading the
IDF, letting the army remain in the Jordan Valley following an Israeli
withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, and a promise not to ask Israel for a further
But reports about ministers who were considering voting in
favor of the deal forced the reportedly wavering ministers to issue flat denials
on Sunday. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz already expressed opposition to
restarting the construction freeze in a 7 a.m. radio interview and Education
Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Communications
Minister Moshe Kahlon later followed suit.
Following those pledges,
Netanyahu would have little to no chance of passing a proposal that would limit
construction in the cabinet, security cabinet or septet. No votes have been
scheduled ahead of this weekend’s key Arab League summit in any forum of
A strong majority of Israelis support continuing West Bank
construction, a Dahaf Institute poll broadcast on Channel 2 Sunday night
Fifty-four percent of respondents said the government should be
building in Judea and Samaria and only 39% support a further
The poll also found that if an election were held today,
Labor would fall to six Knesset seats from the current 13.
MK Arye Eldad responded to the poll by saying that “Netanyahu must stop being
afraid and stop giving into the extortion of [Labor chairman Ehud] Barak, who
has no influence in the Knesset.”
Eldad warned the prime minister that
“if he gives into pressure and American enticements, he will lose the support of
the public and share Barak’s fate.”
Peace Now reacted by lamenting that
“the public has been brainwashed by the government and the settlers and has not
internalized the price Israel is paying for the settlements.”
bought the stories about the freeze harming average Israelis instead of helping
Israel diplomatically,” Peace Now director-general Yariv Oppenheimer
“I am a bit pessimistic,” Oppenheimer said. “I think it is pretty
clear that Netanyahu is not serious [about peace].”
Should the direct
talks with the Palestinians collapse, he said, Peace Now plans to stage a
massive rally on behalf of a negotiated solution.
“We hope it will be big
enough to have an effect,” Oppenheimer said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed
to this report.