PM to meet balking Likud members on new freeze

"My fellow ministers will accept [the freeze and incentives package]," says Netanyahu; talks continue with Washington on language.

bibi and hillary_311 (photo credit: (Mary Altaffer/AP))
bibi and hillary_311
(photo credit: (Mary Altaffer/AP))
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will meet with fellow Likud MKs on Sunday in an effort to rally support for a new settlement freeze.
While the prime minister holds a series of key meetings, including with his cabinet ministers and with Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni, thousands of settlement supporters are expected to demonstrate outside the Prime Minister’s Office.
Netanyahu has invited Likud MKs and deputy ministers to a meeting on Sunday afternoon, following the weekly cabinet session, to present the American proposal for a 90-day freeze to the balking party members.
Five of the party’s seven backbenchers and all three of its deputy ministers were among the 14 signatories of last week’s letter opposing the moratorium proposal.
Following that talk, Netanyahu will meet with Livni – not officially to discuss the freeze, but rather to find a way out of another sticky issue: the appointment of a new chairman for the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Last week, Netanyahu and Livni received an ultimatum from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) to make the appointment by this Monday.
But sources close to the party leaders would not rule out the possibility that the two would discuss diplomatic issues, including the freeze, in the course of the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip will put further pressure on Shas and Likud MKs by holding a mass protest outside the cabinet meeting.
At the same time, municipal and educational services in many West Bank communities will hold a day’s warning strike, allowing hundreds if not thousands of pupils to attend the Jerusalem protest.
Within Likud, pressure continued on the party’s lawmakers who have yet to state their opposition to the freeze plan. A forum calling itself the Likud National Bloc said it had already gathered 280 signatures of Likud central committee members and branch heads promising their support for the 14 Likud ministers and MKs who have announced their opposition to the moratorium proposal.
The forum began circulating the letter on Thursday, and said it hopes to gain the signatures of the majority of central committee members.
The Likud activists wrote to the 14 MKs and ministers: “This week, when the demand to renew the moratorium in Judea and Samaria was announced and we needed your assistance as our loyal representatives in the government and the Knesset, you were there for us.
We, the undersigned, will not forget that when you need our assistance – as loyal members of Likud, we will be there for you.”
Speaking at an event in Ramat Gan on Saturday, the party’s MK Ophir Akunis, one of the legislators closest to Netanyahu, described the proposal for a 90- day freeze as an “additional aspect of [US President Barack] Obama’s incorrect policy of applying pressure on the wrong side.
Instead of putting pressure of the Palestinians, the serial peace rejecters, he is putting disproportional pressure on Israel.”
Akunis expressed sympathy for right-wing activists who oppose the freeze plan, but said that while he “understands and am partner to the settlers’ concerns, we all learn from past mistakes, and remember the terrible results of bringing down right-wing governments.”