Israeli settlers threaten to bring down Benjamin Netanyahu's government

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Pastor Dale Morgan

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Sep 13, 2010, 4:42:03 PM9/13/10
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Perilous Times

Israeli settlers threaten to bring down Benjamin Netanyahu's government


Israeli settlers have pledged to bring down the government of Benjamin Netanyahu if the prime minister backtracked on a firm commitment to allow West Bank construction to resume.
 

By Adrian Blomfield in Jerusalem
Published: 5:20PM BST 13 Sep 2010

Israeli settlers threaten to bring down government

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) is under pressure from Barack Obama to compromise on settlements as he heads into talks on Tuesday with Mahmoud Abbas (right) Photo: REUTERS

Mr Netanyahu, who goes back into peace talks with the Palestinians on Tuesday in Egypt, talked at the weekend about a compromise on the extension of a 10-month moratorium on settlement construction to both Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy, and later his cabinet. But this prompted immediate outrage from Jewish settlers, a constituency with considerable leverage over his broad coalition.

Settlers, who celebrated Mr Netanyahu's election last year, accused him of betrayal and of wilting under US pressure. The moratorium on construction in the disputed territories of the West Bank expires in the last week of this month and until now Mr Netanyahu has firmly denied that any extension would be possible. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, has threatened to leave the talks if settlement construction resumes and Barack Obama, US President, last week called for the freeze to be prolonged.
 
Danny Dayan, the chairman of the Yesha Council which represents the West Bank's 300,000 Jewish settlers, said: "If the freeze continues in any way, we promise to make every effort to fight against the Netanyahu government. It will be the beginning of the end."

Mr Dayan's colleagues were also incensed, with Gershon Mesika, leader of the settlers in the northern West Bank, announcing that a continuation of the freeze would amount to "a declaration of war". He added: "We would do everything possible to topple the prime minister."

Mr Netanyahu said limits could be imposed on the amount of construction that would be allowed, suggesting a smaller number of new homes than the 20,000 for which the settlers already have planning permission.

"Between zero and 20,000, there is also a middle ground," Mr Netanyahu said.

Mr Netanyahu's apparent willingness to compromise suggests that the prospect of the talks collapsing just weeks after they started could be averted. There have been indications that the Palestinians could accept some building in major settlements that are likely to become part of Israel in any proposed land swap.

Ehud Barak, Mr Netanyahu's doveish defence minister, has also put together a plan to ensure that new settlement construction is blocked by bureaucratic hurdles, according to the Israeli press.

There is no question that forcing through an agreement would carry a heavy political cost for Mr Netanyahu, even while doubts remain over his sincerity towards the peace talks. In an illustration of the difficulties that lie ahead, settlers went on the rampage in a Palestinian village in the West Bank yesterday, burning cars and daubing houses with graffiti.

On the Palestinian side, the hardline Islamists of Hamas are also implacably opposed to the talks and there has been an upsurge in recent days in rockets fired from Gaza, the territory which the group controls, in recent days. (EDS: Please keep formula something like this, as it is not Hamas that has fired the rockets)
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