Rift in Likud: 19 MKs speak out against settlement freeze

West Bank communities council compiles list of recent quotes from MKs, who are upset that the largest settlements are out of building permits.

Maaleh Adumim 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Maaleh Adumim 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appeared to facing a new challenge from inside his Likud Party on Thursday after no fewer than 19 of the 27 Likud MKs issued statements calling for renewed construction in the cities of Judea and Samaria.
The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip compiled a list of recent quotes from the lawmakers, who are upset that the largest settlements are out of building permits, including Betar Illit, Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Efrat.
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The new effort by the settlers’ council was intended to send a message to Netanyahu, who told the Likud faction on Monday that due to pressure from the international community, Israel needed to concentrate on maintaining the building that is taking place in Judea and Samaria rather than approve new construction.
“Netanyahu feels that he is alone, under pressure from Obama and the world, but he is not,” council director-general Naftali Bennett said.
“The entire government, the entire Likud and the overwhelming majority of Israelis are telling Netanyahu: Just build already. The only government since the Six Day War that has applied such a freeze on the cities in Judea and Samaria is the Netanyahu government. This is unacceptable.”
The list of quotes includes ministers Moshe Ya’alon, Silvan Shalom, Yuval Steinitz, Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan, Yuli Edelstein, Israel Katz and Limor Livnat, deputy ministers Ayoub Kara and Leah Ness, and MKs Ze’ev Elkin, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely, Tzion Pinyan, Haim Katz, Yariv Levin, Miri Regev, Carmel Shama-Hacohen and Ophir Akunis.
“The freeze is over and we must return to building throughout the Land of Israel, because that’s the way it must be,” said Steinitz, who is close to Netanyahu. “We made problematic gestures whose time has ended. The time has come to return to building and getting built.”

Absent from the list were dovish ministers Dan Meridor, Michael Eitan and Yossi Peled, Netanyahu himself, recently promoted Social Welfare Minister Moshe Kahlon, and deputy minister Gila Gamliel, who does not want to rock the boat when she wants to be a minister.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Minister-without- Portfolio Bennie Begin, who both back building in Judea and Samaria, are not on the list, because Rivlin feels he needs to be statesmanlike in his post, and because Begin was sick this week.