Newly elected MKs 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after Likud MK Tzipi Hotevely convened a conference in the Knesset with settler leaders to protest reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had agreed to a settlement freeze during talks with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell in London, MK Ophir Akunis came to the defense of the prime minister, saying that the "most important thing is to back him."
"If peace talks with the Palestinians really do resume, the Likud government - the national unity government - will change the pattern of those talks," he told Israel Radio. "Half a year ago, we had a government that just gave and gave. One side gave and the other just took. We got nothing in return."
"If and when we conduct negotiations, we will first and foremost set demands that haven't been set for years," he continued, saying those conditions were the Palestinians' recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, as well as a "real fight" against terror and a halt to incitement.
Akunis responded cautiously to reports of an agreement between Netanyahu and Mitchell, saying that although he "could not accept a stop to natural growth," he would meet with the prime minister next week and would prefer to hear about the London talks from him rather than discuss "contradictory reports."
Hotevely had told the radio station earlier that she would continue her protest activities, and that three ministers were joining her campaign against the reported settlement freeze deal.
Akunis cautioned against rebellious actions of Likud members.
"Those that toppled Shamir and toppled Netanyahu in his first term regretted it," warned Akunis. "We must not repeat the mistakes of the past."
Pinchas Wallerstein, director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, told Israel Radio that a settlement freeze together with a recognition of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan Rover would be "unforgivable."
He said such a freeze would effectively "strangle 300,000 Jews."
"What will happen to my son who is getting married in two weeks, and others who want to move there?" he asked. "If no natural growth is allowed, what will happen to the haredi Beitar [Illiit] or Ariel?"
"A settlement freeze would just be a regression," he stated.