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
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)