Netanyhau tries to reassure MKs on settlements

Ministers criticize Obama for refusing to allow natural growth, even in consensus settlements in W. Bank.

Herschkowitz 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
Herschkowitz 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi )
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with Likud MKs on Sunday and reassured them that he did not intend to remove settlements. He accused them of overreacting to statements he made in last week's Likud faction meeting about the need to remove unauthorized outposts in order to persuade US President Barack Obama to deal with Iran. In a meeting meant to discuss the budget, Netanyahu promised to hold a discussion with his faction on diplomatic issues and asked the MKs not to criticize him in the press before they understood his policies. Earlier, several ministers criticized Obama outside Sunday's cabinet meeting for refusing to allow natural growth, even in consensus settlements in the West Bank. "The American demand to prevent natural growth is unreasonable, and brings to mind pharaoh, who said, 'Every son that is born you shall cast into the river,'" Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) said. "If there is a family that expands from one child to four or five, what should we tell them - to ship the children off to Petah Tikva?" Herschkowitz added. "This is an unacceptable demand, even if it comes from the Americans, and Israel should reject it decisively." Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, "The American demand to freeze construction means expulsion for young people living in large locales. I hope the US administration understands that. If not, I don't want to be an apocalyptic prophet saying we're facing struggle and confrontation." He added that "the concessions they're demanding of us are a security impediment we cannot tolerate." Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein chose a positive perspective on the dispute that threatens an Israeli-American rift. "The recent days prove what luck we have that it is [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu's government conducting talks on West Bank natural growth and construction in Jerusalem," he said. "Just imagine someone else - he would have led us to an entanglement lasting generations." He added that "we aren't headed for a confrontation with the White House, but rather for understandings, and Netanyahu's visit there proved it. President Obama is a friend of Israel, and I'm sure we can resolve the disagreements." Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog of the Labor Party stressed the importance of preventing a head-on collision with Obama. "The current American administration sees things differently than the last two presidents did. Construction is being undertaken around Jerusalem according to understandings with previous administrations," he said. "Israel wants very much to reach understandings, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's upcoming trip to Washington proves it." National Union leader Ya'acov Katz, meanwhile, told Army Radio that if Netanyahu removed outposts, his party would make sure the government falls. "When Netanyahu was toppled by the Right the last time, it took him by surprise," Katz said. "If I were prime minister, I'd tell Obama politely that the land of Israel is ours. I am sure if I spoke out of love, he would embrace me."