Half of Netanyahu's party faction against new West Bank freeze
Half the members of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu's 27-member Likud Party parliamentary caucus have signed a petition rejecting a new temporary Israeli freeze on construction at its West Bank settlements, Israeli media reported Wednesday.
The temporary freeze, proposed by the US, is aimed at enticing Palestinians back to the negotiating table, and at least four Likud cabinet ministers are among the signatories to the petition, dpa reported.
The US proposal, which reportedly is still being finalised, will see Israel receive a string of benefits, including support at the United Nations and new fighter aircraft, if it agrees to the construction moratorium.
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations are currently in limbo after a 10-month limited Israeli construction freeze expired in September and Palestinians said they would not continue the talks unless it was renewed.
The anti-freeze petition, initiated by the council representing Israeli West Bank settlers, calls on Netanyahu not to renew the freeze, and demands the implementation of the decision to continue building in the West Bank once the previous moratorium ended.
Netanyahu is not the first Israeli prime minister, or Likud leader, to face a party revolt over plans involving Israeli settlers.
Former premier Ariel Sharon enraged the more nationalist Likud members and legislators when he proposed, and subsequently implemented, a unilateral evacuation of Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu resigned from the cabinet in opposition to the Gaza plan, whose opponents made Sharon's politcal life so difficult that he eventual bolted the Likud to form a new centrist faction.