Likud’s right behind PM despite hints of concessions

Netanyahu reassures hawkish MKs over settlements following speech.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 18, 2011 02:11
2 minute read.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Ariel Je

yaalon great 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The right flank of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party backed up Netanyahu on Tuesday, a day after he hinted in a speech to the Knesset that he might not keep Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that are not part of settlement blocs.

Hawkish ministers and MKs in Likud were initially upset about the speech, and expressed concern that the prime minister was straying too far from the principles of the party. But Netanyahu spoke to them and reassured them that he was merely stating ideas of a consensus of Israelis, and not his personal opinion.

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“The prime minister tried in his speech to outline the views of the Israeli consensus, according to his understanding of the most concessionary views within that consensus about how to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict,” Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon said at a conference in the Jordan Valley.

“He insisted that for them to be a partner, the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and agree that any territorial concession will end the conflict and put a stop to Palestinian claims,” Ya’alon added.

Environment Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel Radio that he agreed with every point Netanyahu made in the speech. Erdan joined other Likud ministers in coming out in favor of annexing settlement blocs if the Palestinians declared a state unilaterally at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

MK Tzipi Hotovely – who complained to Netanyahu after the speech that “settlement blocs is a Kadima term and not a Likud term,” and asked why he was giving up settlements outside the blocs – accepted Netanyahu’s response that this was not his intention. She said the prime minister told her that settlements outside the blocs were not in danger.

But a minister in the Inner Security Cabinet, and multiple advisers to Netanyahu, confirmed that when he spoke about keeping the settlements in the blocs, the prime minister did intend to infer that settlements outside the blocs were open for negotiations.

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A source close to Netanyahu said last July that when Netanyahu referred to defensible borders in his June 2009 Bar-Ilan University speech, he was referring to the settlement blocs. He also noted that Netanyahu made a point of planting trees on Tu B’Shvat in Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion.

Minister-without-Portfolio Michael Eitan, who has been pleading with Netanyahu to focus on the blocs for two years, welcomed Netanyahu’s speech.

“Now he will start off his trip to the US on the right foot,” Eitan said. “Netanyahu’s statement is important and it should enable good meetings for him in Washington. I feel he has more of a chance to return from the trip successfully – not just with applause in Congress, but also with support from the White House.”

National Union head Ya’acov Katz released a statement on Tuesday night listing the populations of 123,767 communities in Judea and Samaria that he believed Netanyahu was giving up on.

A source close to Netanyahu mocked Katz for including on the list communities in the Jerusalem corridor, such as Givat Ze’ev and Har Adar, that the source said no prime minister would ever consider giving away.

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