(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed a settlement freeze with US envoy George Mitchell on Tuesday, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who holds the title of deputy prime minister, was praising the settlers of Hebron.
Yishai held a pre-Rosh Hashana toast in Kiryat Arba with heads of local authorities from across the country. He also visited the Cave of the Patriarchs, the Shavei Hebron yeshiva, and local charities.
"A nation that denies its past has no future," Yishai said on the tour, according to his associates.
Yishai, who was recently added to the prestigious, seven-member inner cabinet, reiterated on the tour that he opposes freezing settlement construction in Judea and Samaria but would agree to temporarily downscale building in the area as a tactical move.
"Here in Hebron, the people of Israel began," Yishai told the mayors at Hebron's Gutnick Hall. "That's why this is such an appropriate place to hold such a gathering in honor of Rosh Hashana."
Union of Local Authorities head Shlomo Buhbut, who is a former Labor MK, pledged to fight on behalf of local authorities in Judea and Samaria.
Yishai's spokesman said after the event that it was planned well in advance and it was not timed to coincide with Netanyahu's meeting with Mitchell or to pressure the prime minister.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat is expected to come out against a settlement freeze for the first time on a visit to Eli in Samaria on Wednesday.