Netanyahu looking over shoulder 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Knesset reconvened on Monday for the first day of the summer session, and diplomatic relations took a prominent place in the weekly meetings of the Knesset’s largest factions. But within the coalition, trouble brewed as right-wing Likud MKs put Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the hot seat in advance of a key party vote, and Israel Beiteinu MKs warned they would “heat up” the session if their coalition demands remained unmet.
During the first few minutes of the Likud faction meeting, internal Likud politics were on MKs’ minds when Netanyahu discussed Israel’s foreign policy.
“There is no truth to the allegation that Israel is planning a move against Syria,” Netanyahu said as the meeting began. “This is an attempt by Iran and Hizbullah to distract international public opinion from the intended sanctions against Iran.”
Netanyahu went on to say that Iran was continuing with its nuclear weapons pursuit, and that while an agreement on sanctions was coming together, the measures would not be decided on within the coming month.
In light of these external challenges faced by Israel, Netanyahu called on all Likud members to vote for his proposed change to the Likud’s constitution that would postpone internal Likud elections in an effort to reduce tensions within the ruling party.
After the faction closed the doors to the press minutes into the meeting, right-wing MKs began to press the prime minister on push-button issues within the party.
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) asked Netanyahu about the veracity of rumors regarding a potential interim status deal offered to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to Hotovely, Netanyahu responded that “there were no understandings, decisions or agreements regarding any such deal. The information that published was erroneous.”
Hotovely went on to ask about construction in Jerusalem, and said the prime minister answered that “building in Jerusalem will continue, and we will continue to stand on our essential principles. Jerusalem is a national interest, and we will continue both planning and building in Jerusalem.”
But challenges from home in advance of the Likud Central Committee meeting scheduled for this coming Thursday were not the only threat facing Netanyahu from allies as the Knesset session opened. Israel Beiteinu MKs said Monday that they were planning a lively summer session in which they would try and force Netanyahu’s government to advance key pieces of their original coalition agreement with the Likud.
In front of the cameras, however, Israel Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman also focused on less fractious issues from his perspective – international affairs and the Holyland investigation.
“I hope everything will go well, and that in another week or two indirect negotiations will finally be started with the Palestinians,” said the foreign minister. “The Israeli government has said from the start that we are willing to begin direct negotiations, without delays or preconditions. Of course, [Special Envoy George] Mitchell should be congratulated on all his efforts. The central question that remains, from my perspective, is the intentions of the other side – and that is something we will need to clarify immediately upon the initiation of the indirect negotiations.”
According to MK Danny Danon, the issue of the pending demolition of homes in the Givat Hayovel and Haresha outposts was also raised at the faction meeting.
Among the houses slated to be razed are those of the widows of slain IDF majors Roi Klein and Eliraz Peretz, who live in the Givat Hayovel outpost. That has made the issue of demolishing the outpost homes particularly sensitive.
According to Danon, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the state plans to “change its direction on this issue” and take a position similar to that regarding the Derech Ha’avot outpost. On Sunday, the government stated its intention to possibly legalize the homes at Derech Ha’avot on condition it is proven that they are not built on private Palestinian property.
To date, the state has not yet indicated to the court any intention to legalize the Haresha and Givat Hayovel homes.
Several weeks ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the High Court of
Justice for a six-month delay on any decision with regard to the two
outposts. The court has yet to respond.
The Prime Minister’s Office said it could not confirm Netanyahu’s
comment. But Likud Minister Yuli Edelstein said Netanyahu made a
similar reference at Sunday’s meeting of Likud ministers.