MKs warn Steinitz: Budget won’t pass if freeze continues

Rift in government must be healed first, says Livni; Mofaz sees no reason to continue freeze in large settlements or Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Yuval Steinitz 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
Yuval Steinitz 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)
The 2011 state budget will not pass when the Knesset recess ends next month if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decides to continue the construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria, Likud MKs warned Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Monday.
Following a meeting with Steinitz and Finance Ministry officials, coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin and MKs Danny Danon, Yariv Levin and Tzipi Hotovely, took Steinitz aside and told him not to take the budget’s passage for granted. “If the freeze continues it would be be such a break that it would change the rules of the game,” Elkin said.
Later Monday, at a new year’s toast hosted by Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, Elkin called the freeze a sin and asked for God’s forgiveness.
Ministers and MKs at the event said they supported Netanyahu but warned him not to stray from Likud’s path.
Shalom slammed Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor’s proposal to resume construction only in the settlement blocs while continuing the freeze in more isolated communities.
“Deciding the borders before the negotiations would be completely foolish,” Shalom said. “Why would we decide which settlements must be removed from the map already now? Is this Likud? Is this why we came back to power?”
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin made an impassioned plea at the event to Israel’s leaders to engage in soul searching over considering giving up the country’s assets to refugees from 1948 who have not given up their hopes of returning to their homes in pre-1967 Israel.
He said that similarly the leaders of the US and Europe required soul searching for their plans to pressure Israel to take steps that would destroy the country.
In her first comments since Netanyahu hinted the freeze could partially continue, Kadima and opposition leader Tzipi Livni pushed him to take dramatic steps.
“I expect someone who says he wants two nation-states to understand the price necessary to reach an agreement,” Livni said. Instead of speaking in slogans, [Netanyahu] must decide whether he is willing to risk a rift in his government to end the rift with the Palestinians.”
But Livni’s Kadima rival, MK Shaul Mofaz, told Israel Radio that he saw no reason to continue the freeze in large settlements or parts of Jerusalem that will remain in Israeli custody as part of a future agreement.
Social Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog angered the Right by suggesting extending the freeze by two months.
“It frustrates me to hear ministers saying to continue it for just two more months and then we can build,” Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein said. “The freeze is a test for future developments in the negotiations, because if we give in on this, why wouldn’t we on the Old City of Jerusalem.”