Some 21 members of Knesset, including seven deputy ministers, sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday expressing their total opposition to a settlement freeze as part of a U.S.–brokered peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
"We have received reports in recent days of a demand that Israel agree to a freeze in construction and planning in settlements in Judea and Samaria," the letter said. "We strongly oppose any kind of freeze, including a freeze outside the [settlement] blocs."
Signatories to the letter include Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin; Ofir Akunis, deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office; Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon; and Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely, all of them from Netanyahu's Likud party. Other lawmakers include Ayelet Shaked, Eli Ben Dahan and Avi Wortzman from Habayit Hayehudi; Yariv Levin, Moshe Feiglin and Miri Regev from the Likud party; Shimon Ohayon, Robert Ilatov and Hamad Amar from Yisraeli Beitenu.
The opposition hit back at the letter. Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Labor), said that "Netanyahu is a prime minister in theory, but Elkin, Danon and Akunis are prime ministers in practice. Netanyahu is plodding along, treading water, scared to make decisions, and is being controlled by a string at the hands of the right-wing in Likud. The face is that of Netanyahu, but the actions are of Elkin, Danon and Akunis."
Meretz leader Zahava Gal-On also weighed in, saying that "the MKs from the extreme right who threaten the prime minister against freezing construction are adopting the tactics and the bullying of 'price tag' vandals."
"The prime minister needs to make a historic decision, to shake himself free of the settlement right and announce a freeze on construction in the settlements so that we will be able to divide this land," she said.
On Friday, U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Israel Radio that he believes the interim framework deal that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is working toward will include Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. He added that both sides still need to decide on various issues, including the fate of settlers that will stay on the Palestinian side of a future border. He did not go into detail on what a deal might include on this issue.
Shapiro added that the Obama administration knows there are opponents to a two-state solution within the Israeli government and in the Knesset, but said that Netanyahu has said he is committed to a solution, and that he has widespread public support.