Rightist MKs: We Mustn't Freeze Settlement Construction

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom speaks at protest tent, saying 'settlements are not an obstacle to peace.'

As preparations were underway in New York on Tuesday for a tripartite meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Israel, right-wing ministers and MKs sent out a clear message - we mustn't freeze settlement construction.

The tripartite summit aims to pressure Israel and the Palestinian Authority to relaunch stalled peace talks, but sources in Israel, the U.S. and the Palestinian authority have said that chances for renewal of peace talks are slim.

Ministers and MKs visited a protest tent erected across from the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem by the Yesha settler council in hopes to voice opposition to the possibility of a peace agreement that would require Israel to halt construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, who spoke at the protest tent, said that "the settlements are not an obstacle to peace."

Shalom remarked that "I said that a summit would take place, even when everyone thought there wouldn't be one. This summit is supposed to lead to resumption of peace talks, and we support this resumption."

"It is important that the Palestinians understand that peace will not come in place of Israel, but rather alongside Israel," Shalom continued.

Commenting on the possibility that the summit will fail, Shalom said "a failed summit is not a good thing. In English there is a saying 'it takes two to tango.'"

The settlers' protest tent also hosted the ministers Moshe Kahlon (Likud), and Uzi Landau (Yisrael Beitenu). Landau emphasized the fact that "construction in the West Bank must continue."

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) also visited the tent, saying that "the only way to demonstrate our ownership is to build."

"We must build in all of the West Bank, the blocs and the cities alike," she said.

Meanwhile Tuesday, the heads of the Yesha settler council met with the chairman of the right-wing party Habayit Hayehudi, Science Minister Daniel Hershkovitz, who said that "we came to support our brothers the settlers in our joint struggle against the settlement freeze."

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told the Yesha council leaders that he was "convinced that the prime minister will remain loyal to the platform that got him elected." He explained that he did not attend the protest tent because "the tent represents opposition to the prime minister, and for now, there is nothing to oppose."