Netanyahu to shift Likud rightward

Document of principles calls for strengthening settlements.

netanyahu 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
netanyahu 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that he had agreed to take several steps to take the Likud rightward if elected in the December 19 party leadership race. In return for MK Uzi Landau's endorsement, Netanyahu agreed to a "document of principles" that would differentiate the Likud from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Kadima party. Netanyahu and Landau outlined the document on Wednesday in a press conference at Tel Aviv's Beit Sokolov. The document calls for strengthening West Bank settlements and holding referenda on future territorial concessions. It also rules out unilateral withdrawals and negotiations with the Palestinians before they eliminate terror, violence and incitement. Netanyahu caved into Landau's demand to forbid concessions in the Golan Heights but he did not accept his request to call for the annexation of settlement blocs in Judea and Samaria. "I hear people attaching an extremist moniker to the Likud, but the truth is that the party's principles really unite the country," Netanyahu said. "Most of the public doesn't want more unilateral withdrawals. The other party [Kadima] might say that they also oppose unilateral withdrawals. The main difference between us is that we will keep our word. We are telling the truth and they are not and everyone knows it." Netanyahu said the key to the Likud returning to power was to show the public that the party backs an Israel with "unwavering strength." He said that unilateral concessions would bring neither security nor peace and that peace must be pursued from a position of strength while demanding Palestinian reciprocity. "We won't go blindly to concessions that endanger every man or woman in Israel," Netanyahu said. "When the public realizes that Sharon will make concessions that will make Kfar Saba the border and that the Likud is a right of center party and not extremist, they will come back to us. The Likud is not collapsing, it is returning to itself." Fondly recalling their days together as students in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Netanyahu said that Landau would be a senior cabinet minister if he is elected prime minister. But he said that this commitment was not a precondition for obtaining Landau's endorsement. Landau called upon the press to be fair and not to call the Likud "extremist." He said he did not regret his rebellion against Sharon that led to the prime minister's departure from the Likud. Likud activist Shimshon Deri came to the press conference to heckle Netanyahu and Landau and accuse them of "destroying the Likud." A settler leader who endorsed Netanyahu said he doubted that he would keep his commitments to Landau. "The day after you get elected, we will start our campaign to topple you," the settler leader told Netanyahu.