Netanyahu: I'm not building in Jerusalem for Lieberman and Yishai
'I plan to continue building in Jerusalem as all previous prime ministers did before me,' PM vows.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday said that he is building in Jerusalem on his own accord and not because coalition partners are pressuring him to do so, senior officials told Haaretz.
In closed talks, Netanyahu clarified that he has no intention of breaking up his rightwing coalition to form a more moderate centrist alliance, despite continuing pressure from the United States for a compromise over Israeli building in east Jerusalem.
"I do not need coalition partners to pressure me into continuing to build in Jerusalem," he said. "I, myself, plan to continue building in Jerusalem as all previous prime ministers did before me."
Netanyahu added: "I am not building in Jerusalem just because [Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman or [Interior Minister Eli] Yishai are pressuring me to do so."
The prime minister has faced repeated demands from his hardline partners in government to refuse any compromise on Jewish building in all parts of the city.
A few hours before meeting the prime minister on Friday afternoon to hear his plans for a compromise to restore the United States' trust, senior cabinet ministers received representations from pro-settlement politicians who urged them to refuse any further concessions to the Palestinians.
The 'Eretz Yisrael Lobby', a Knesset faction which supports continued Jewish construction across the West Bank, petitioned four of the 'forum of seven' - Benny Begin, Moshe Yaalon, Avigdor Lieberman and Eli Yishai - pressing the ministers to reject any new Palestinian conditions for a return to peace talks.
"In the name of the lobby we call upon [the government] to oppose any new gesture to the Palestinians as a condition for renewing talks," said the group, which counts on the support of dozens of rightwing Knesset members, in a letter.
"We are confident and assured that if you stand by this position, which you have supported in the past, the forum of seven will arrive at the correct decisions."
Netanyahu's seven-member inner cabinet, which he consults on major policy decisions, met on Friday to discuss "understandings" with the U.S. reached during the prime minister's weekend trip to Washington.
A spokesman for Netanyahu, Nir Hefetz, said earlier Friday that the prime minister had reached a "series of understandings" on policy toward Palestinians in talks with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"The construction policy will not change, but Israel is prepared to make additional steps in order to advance peace talks," Hefetz said.
Soon after Hefetz made the comments, the government issued a clarification, however: Any understanding with the U.S. did not mean American backing for Israeli construction in east Jerusalem.