Vice Premier Silvan Shalom will continue his shift from Likud dove to hawk on Monday when he holds a press conference together with the far-right Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria.
Shalom, who was foreign minister during the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and defended it around the world, came out against a West Bank settlement freeze last week. He will join forces with the settler rabbis in criticizing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, as he is meeting with American envoy George Mitchell.
The official reason for the press conference was for the rabbis to call upon religious Zionists to also settle the Negev and Galilee and not just Judea and Samaria. But a source close to Shalom said the settlement freeze would also play a central role in the press conference.
Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El and Bnei Akiva Yeshivot chairman Rabbi Haim Druckman will attend the press conference in a surprising show of support from leading settlement rabbinic leadership.
"There is a mitzva to settle all parts of the Land of Israel," Druckman said. "We have to go everywhere, to the Negev and to the Galilee also. Wherever there is a need for Jewish settlement."
According to MK Uri Ariel (National Union), the rabbis will support enlisting groups of young Orthodox Zionist couples and families to settle in areas in the Negev and the Galilee where there is a strong Arab presence. The target cities include Nazareth, Karmiel, Acre and Beersheba.
"We have a few groups being put together right now, and they should be ready to move next summer," said Ariel.
A spokesman for Melamed said that encouraging Jewish settlement in "mixed" Arab-Jewish cities was high on the National Union's priority list.
"During coalition discussions we tried to receive economic incentives from the Treasury to encourage strong religious families to move to mixed towns," the spokesman said. "The idea was to support religious educational institutions so that religious people would be willing to make the move."
Melamed's spokesman added, however, that the push to settle in the Negev and the Galilee did not detract in any way from settling in Judea and Samaria.
"In fact I am now in the process of collecting signatures from Yesha rabbis on an announcement calling on all Jews to defend every single outpost in Judea and Samaria," he said. "The rabbis are personally going to show up at outposts slated for evacuation to prevent it."
Ariel concurred, saying: "There are enough religious Zionists to settle in the Negev and in the Galilee and at the same time to fight for our hold of Judea and Samaria."