Likud MKs opposing the resumption of the settlement construction freeze have put together a list of 20 MKs and ministers who are likely to join a campaign to counter the initiative.
Under their plan, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may succeed in gaining a majority in the cabinet authorizing the freeze, he would enter the process without the support of his party.
The hard core of opponents of the freeze in Likud met yesterday to prepare a campaign to counter the initiative. Among the leaders are Minister Yuli Edelstein, MKs Zeev Elkin, Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely and Yariv Levin, and joining them yesterday were Miri Regev and Haim Katz.
Among the ministers that the opponents of the new freeze intend to draw to their campaign are Benny Begin, Moshe Ya'alon and Silvan Shalom. The group's mission is to pressure members of the cabinet, in an effort to convince them not to back the freeze initiative.
MK Danon has also begun efforts to convince Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to order his ministers to vote against the freeze in the cabinet rather than abstain, as Shas Chairman Eli Yishai had said they would.
The campaign includes a joint effort with the heads of the settler movement, who have begun focusing their attention also on ultra-Orthodox websites.
Last night, right-wing rabbis met with Yishai, who also met at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem with the yeshiva's head, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira. Right-wing groups rejected the claims that Shas is planning to abstain from the vote because of internal political disputes. Sources close to Yishai say that he would like to stick to the original line, which had Ovadia Yosef insisting that there will be no more freezing of settlement activity.
Yishai's supporters say that "Rabbi Ovadia Yosef will not allow Yishai to leave the government under any circumstances," which they say will be the result of a clash with Netanyahu over the freeze.
Yesterday, Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan said that "it is necessary to rally the support of all ministers, even those who we think may not support us."
He added that "the freeze must be opposed unconditionally, but the ministers who are on the fence must at least demand an official letter from the Americans promising that construction can resume after the 90 days, and they cannot demand a further construction freeze."
An MK from the group explained that "this demand is meant to show that the Americans will not agree to such a letter, and this will make it clear to the government and the public that contrary to Netanyahu's statements, the current freeze is not the last as far as the administration is concerned."
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Netanyahu's plan to extend the freeze on West Bank settlement building in return for diplomatic and security incentives. "This is a very promising development and a serious effort by Prime Minister Netanyahu," Clinton said, declining to comment on the details of the plan but stressing that the United States was in close contact with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
"We are going to continue to do everything we possibly can to get the parties to begin the kind of serious, end-game negotiations that are necessary [to end the conflict]", she added.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now