Peled: PM didn't agree to settlement freeze deal

Minister says Netanyahu was assured in Germany that "Jews will continue to build and live in Jerusalem."

yossi peled 248 88 (photo credit: Jonah Newman)
yossi peled 248 88
(photo credit: Jonah Newman)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has not made a deal with US President Barack Obama's administration to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria, Minister-without-portfolio Yossi Peled, who accompanied Netanyahu to Europe, said in a toast he hosted for Likud activists on Tuesday at Tel Aviv's Azrieli Tower. Peled's event was purposely focused on strengthening Jerusalem and the Golan Heights - which are consensus issues within the Likud - and not on the future of the West Bank, in order not to embarrass Netanyahu ahead of Obama's key decisions regarding the fate of the Middle East later this month. But Peled made headlines when he leaked information he overheard from Netanyahu in Britain and Germany last week. "I heard the prime minister say with my own ears that he has no intention of freezing construction in the settlements or in Jerusalem," Peled said to the applause of the right-wing Likud activists in the crowd. "He said there is no agreement to freeze construction in the settlements. I am telling you this first-hand." Peled said the prime minister also said in his meetings in Europe that "Jews should be able to live wherever they want." Sources close to Netanyahu confirmed Peled's remarks. They said Netanyahu himself has said repeatedly that there is no agreement yet and that everything that has been in the newspapers about a freeze for a specific time period is premature. Peled expressed confidence that the diplomatic talks would not lead to a rift inside the Likud, despite deepening divides on key issues. "Everyone wants peace, but peace is just a means to guarantee our existence forever," Peled said. "Once we do that, our neighbors will realize they have to accept our existence like Egypt and Jordan did. The Jewish state was given to us as a one-time gift. We don't have the right to lose it, because we won't get a second chance." Peled was backed up in the event by Likud MKs, who called upon Netanyahu not to make concessions on Jerusalem, the Golan and in Judea and Samaria. "The Likud campaign promised no more withdrawals," MK Tzipi Hotovely said. "Don't delude yourself into thinking the world is talking to us about outposts. It is talking about our core, about Jerusalem. We need to maintain our platform and not allow the Likud to become a second Kadima." Hotovely reassured Netanyahu that she did not intend to rebel against him but rather to strengthen him. "I'm sure the prime minister is a partner to our path," Hotovely said. "We will do everything possible to preserve the Likud's ideology. We will tell the prime minister, 'We stand behind you in the face of international pressure and will help you tell the world that we won't surrender.'" MK Yariv Levin promised to ensure that the Likud would maintain its traditional ideology rather than adopting that of the Left. "We won't let what happened in the past happen again," Levin said. "We got the mandate. The Likud must reign." MK Carmel Shama, after praising Netanyahu, was heckled by a Likud activist who once lived in Gush Katif. "We have to give the prime minister credit," Shama said. "He is not the lesser of all evils but the best of the good. He is the most right-wing prime minister there can ever be. We are the only threat to the Likud government. We can only topple ourselves." Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin directed his comments toward US President Barack Obama. "No one can prevent the people of Israel from exercising their sovereignty in the land of Israel," Rivlin said. "Next year in an undivided Jerusalem." Peled's was the first of several pre-Rosh Hashana toasts in the Likud. Ministers Gideon Sa'ar and Gilad Erdan will host events this week. Netanyahu, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom and a group of Likud hawks will hold their toasts next week.