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Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar defended Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against criticism from rightists on Thursday, following attacks on the premier over his apparent willingness to freeze West Bank settlement construction.

"The reality is not simple," said Sa'ar. "Netanyahu needs to protect the vital interests - Jerusalem and the relationship with the United States - and to avoid national isolation, because we won't be able to do the things close to our hearts while under international isolation."

The minister, who is a member of Netanyahu's center-right Likud party, made the comments at a gathering of party members in Tel Aviv, held ahead of the upcoming Jewish holidays.

Sa'ar told his fellow Likudniks that Netanyahu was the only person capable of leading Israel at the moment, and urged them to lend him their full support.

"This is the way to protect Jerusalem," he said, adding: "[You] don't need to be tempted by every headline."

Following the minister's comments, MK Danny Danon (Likud) said he would only back the prime minister if he adhered to the values of his party, and stopped freezing settlement construction.