PM faces rebellion from Likud activists

Party veteran reacts after Netanyahu's speech: PM does not have mandate to create a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu before speech 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Netanyahu before speech 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu received the backing of his ministers and most of the Likud faction regarding his plans for a demilitarized Palestinian state, but will have a harder time obtaining the support of the Likud central committee, party activists said on Tuesday. Top Likud central committee members have begun an effort to obtain the 1,000 signatures necessary to force an emergency meeting without the approval of Netanyahu and committee head Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon. "Netanyahu does not have a mandate to create a Palestinian state, or a demilitarized state, or whatever he wants to call it," said veteran Likud central committee member Uri Faraj, who heads the Likud's Petah Tikva branch, which is the party's largest. Faraj was one of the leaders of efforts in the central committee to prevent former prime minister and Likud leader Ariel Sharon from withdrawing from the Gaza Strip. He also helped Netanyahu pass a resolution in the Likud central committee in 2002 against the formation of a Palestinian state. He said he would have the signatures within a week, and would then present them to Netanyahu and Kahlon. If they refuse to convene the committee, as expected, he would go to internal Likud courts to force them to do so. Sources close to Netanyahu said there was a small chance he would agree to convene the committee, to get support for his plan while he still had the momentum from Sunday's speech. Likud activist Moshe Feiglin said it was tactically wrong to convene the committee until the public realized how wrong Netanyahu was. He said this would only happen after US President Barack Obama intensified pressure on Israel and showed that Netanyahu was incorrect to think that his speech could alleviate American pressure. "Netanyahu set the principle that there is room for another state, and the world will take it from there," Feiglin said. Likud MKs Danny Danon and Yariv Levin, who oppose the creation of a Palestinian state, said they opposed convening the committee, because they were afraid that Netanyahu could succeed in overturning the 2002 decision opposing such a state because of support for his speech. Two new polls published Tuesday showed that the public overwhelmingly approved of Netanyahu's speech and his conditions that a Palestinian state be demilitarized and that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. A New Wave poll published in Israel Hayom found that 61 percent supported the plan, 23% opposed it and 16% did not have an opinion. A Dialog poll published in Haaretz found that 71% agreed with the content of the speech. In the Dialog poll, Netanyahu's approval rating jumped to 44%, up from 28% a month ago. The poll found that 67% did not think the speech would move peace closer. In the New Wave poll, 20% of respondents said their support for Netanyahu increased due to the speech, 10% said it decreased, 54% said it did not change and 16% did not know. On the settlement issue, 58% said they opposed Obama's call for a settlement freeze, including natural growth. Thirty percent supported it and 12% did not know. Asked whether they believed it was possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, 64% of respondents said they did not, 29% said said they did, and 8% said they did not know.