Transportation minister Yisrael Katz.
Transportation minister Yisrael Katz. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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A holiday toast at the home of Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) on Sunday evening turned quickly from a festive gathering into a triumphant celebration to mark the end of Israel's temporary freeze on construction in the West Bank.

Thousands of activists from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's faction crowded the lawn outside Katz's estate in Moshav Kfar Achim, where their host declared that Israel should never accede to international pressure when it comes to exhibiting their right to settle in the Jewish homeland.

"I want to praise the president of the United States, Barack Obama, who in his address to the United Nations recognized Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people," Katz told his guests.

"I am sure he knows that Hebron, Shiloh and Beit El are also part of this historic homeland that belong to the Jewish people," he added, referring to three contentious settlements.

"I want to praise Netanyahu for living up to his commitment, engaging in negotiations without preconditions," Katz added, with regard to the direct peace talks recently re-launched between Israel and the Palestinians. "In ever future arrangement, we must preserve the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria and the residents that live there."