Settler leaders were stepping up pressure on Habayit Hayehudi on Friday, urging the party to boycott Knesset votes until construction beyond the Green Line is resumed.
A banner reading "Bibi is freezing us and Bennett is silent" was published in the press and on social media on Friday morning. Blaming the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, the banner also reads: "Building in Arab city of Rawabi, Freezing in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem." A video carrying a similar message was disseminated by cellphone messages to Habayit Heyehudi party members.
Both criticized the party for not leveraging the vote on the 2016 state budget for a resumption of settlement construction. The video was prepared by the "Communities HQ for thawing the freeze," set up by settlement leaders.
The pressure on Habayit Hayehudi to boycott Knesset votes until the de-facto construction freeze is lifted has caused a rift in the party ranks. On Wednesday, two party MKs, Shuli Moalem and Bezalel Smotrich, were no-shows at a Knesset vote on a bill proposed by the opposition's Yesh Atid party, thereby letting it pass.
Top Habayit Hayehudi officials confirmed that the maneuver was meant as a show of force due to the construction freeze, as well as a response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statements that he is willing to go ahead with unilateral steps in the West Bank. "The unity of Jerusalem is as important as the unity of the coalition. If the prime minister forgets to build in Jerusalem, I forget how to vote in the plenum," MK Moalem said after the vote.
The "Communities HQ" called on the party to continue to boycott Knesset votes and praised Moalem and Smotrich. "The haredim know how to exploit their political power to make gains ahead of the budget vote," Avinoam Goelman, one of the campaign heads, said this week. "Bennett is rubber-stamping the shameful freeze. Bennett has political power and he needs to show that he can use it. It cannot be that Bibi is freezing us and Bennett is silent."
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