Likud Ministers Intensify Backlash Over Netanyahu's Settlement Freeze

Likud Minister Moshe Kahlon urges PM to gather Likud members to discuss settlement freeze decision.

Gilad Erdan, a member of the ruling Likud party, on Sunday criticized a recent cabinet decision to temporarily freeze construction in West Bank settlements, saying that the orders issued by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to halt construction were "extreme and could pose a severe violation of human rights."

The environmental protection minister went on to accuse Barak, who issued the construction injunction orders on Friday, of acting on personal political motives. Erdan urged cabinet ministers to balance out Barak's actions by providing a stronger commitment to protecting the West Bank settlements.

Erdan lamented the fact that the settlement freeze would not be discussed at the weekly cabinet meeting, to be held later Sunday. However, Erdan speculated that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would allow ministers to express their opinions on the issue, even though it would not officially be on the meeting agenda.

Following the criticism Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon (Likud) urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to assemble the Likud Party to discuss the decision to temporarily freeze settlement construction.

Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein, also of Likud, added that he feared that Barak would impose hardships on the settlers. The minister told Netanyahu that the fate of 300,000 people cannot be ignored and that he must meet with settler leaders. He also asked the prime minister to provide compensation to those settlers who will suffer harm as a result of the settlement freeze.

On Saturday, Rank-and-file Likudniks and lawmakers gathered in Ra'anana and lambasted the Obama administration over its pressure on Israel to halt the settlement construction.

MK Dani Danon organized the meeting after Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) launched a verbal attack over the matter on U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, which she branded "terrible."

Former prime minister and Likud chairman Ariel Sharon faced a backlash similar to the one currently facing Netanyahu when the government approved his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2004. The severe objection to the move within his own Likud party led to Sharon's split from the party and the subsequent establishment of Kadima.