Following Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech to the UN General Assembly last week, Netanyahu found himself emerging from Yom Kippur on Monday night with a new mandate from his own party after the settlement freeze seemed to be replaced by a freeze on internal dispute.
For the first time in months, the simmering internal rebellion in the Likud appeared to be quieting down instead of boiling over, after Netanyahu's speech and the revelation by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he had hoodwinked the West and built a second facility for enriching uranium right under their noses.
Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post on Monday night that since the speech, he had heard a flood of positive feedback not only from fellow Likud officials, but also from rank-and-file party members who had previously been dissatisfied with a perceived left-turn by the prime minister.
"In the tripartite meeting [with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US President Barack Obama], Netanyahu didn't say anything about concessions to the Palestinians, about settlement freezes and things like that - and that certainly helped him within the Likud," Edelstein said. "But all of that was strengthened by the speech, one part of which contained an aggressive 'j'accuse,' and that was even more critical."
"In the recent years, many even within the Likud had forgotten Netanyahu's abilities and standing on the international stage - his conviction and his ability to convince and to speak before audiences and the media. And now, I hear in responses from many Likud members, they have recalled that ability."
Edelstein emphasized that Ahmadinejad's announcement also had helped to place "the Likud consensus as the national consensus" regarding Iran - an issue upon which there is much more agreement than on steps to be taken or avoided regarding the Palestinians.
The degree to which Netanyahu's standing had improved within his own party was emphasized when freshman MK and rebellion ringleader MK Tzipi Hotovely sent a letter to her party chairman on the night before Yom Kippur, in which she said she "strengthened his hands and complimented him on his important speech."
"You represented the moral voice amid the air of hypocrisy that blew in from the international field, and you strengthened our national pride," she wrote.
Although Hotovely was perhaps the most rebellious of the Likud MKs to come in from the cold following the prime minister's 45-minute speech in New York, she was far from the only one. MK Carmel Shama, who has been seen as teetering on the brink of joining fellow freshman rebels, started the deluge minutes after Netanyahu completed his speech on Thursday, saying that the prime minister had "proven diplomatic productivity and achievement of goals in the international arena through determination and not through giving in, by telling the straight truth and not by talking around it."
"Netanyahu presented and continues to present Israel as a new state that is proud of its existence, of its right to determine and preserve its existential interests," Shama said. "There is not a single Zionist Israeli citizen who did not identify with the speech."
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