Bayit Yehudi holds faction meeting & confirms party’s commitment to send Israel to elections should gov’t authorize release of convicted Israeli-Arab terrorists as part of US demand to just continue talks with Palestinians.
By Moran Azulay & Attila Somfalvi
Bayit Yehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett reiterated Friday that his party would send Israel to elections if the government decided to free Palestinian prisoners, namely a group of Israeli-Arab terrorists, as part of attempts to salvage peace talks, after the party held a faction meeting.
Meanwhile, political sources within the Likud hinted some of the more rightist members in the party would also quit should such a deal pass.
Thursday Bennett made similar comments, and Ynet has learned the Bennett made the ultimatum after learning the details of a looming deal to get talks back on track which would reportedly see an unknown number of Palestinian prisoners freed together with a US-spy Jonathan Pollard.
“If any proposal freeing Israeli murderers is put before the government, the Bayit Yehudi will object, and if it will pass – the Bayit Yehudi will leave the government which frees murderers with Israeli citizenship. Enough is enough,” Bennett said in a statement Thursday.
Bennett called the Bayit Yehudi faction meeting in wake of the reports of the deal, which the US, Israel and the Palestinians were quick to downplay as “premature,” though Washington said “gaps were narrowing” between the side.
The faction meeting was attended by all but one Bayit Yehudi members, all of which expressed strong support for Bennett’s ultimatum, with some party members demanding he harden its conditions.
“Freeing Israeli murders is an affront on Israeli soverginty, those with Israeli ID cards like me and you. We need to put an end to Palestinian blackmail,” MK Ayelet Shaked wrote on her Facebook page.
“You want negotiations? Tfadal (Arabic slang for ‘Be my guest’) But Israel does not need to discard its sovereignty for that.”
Friday, at the end of a meet, Bennett announced that “if the 14 Israeli-Arab terrorist currently on the proposed list well be set free, we will probably go to elections,” a position his party emphatically supported.
He elaborated the comments, writing on Facebook: “We will not allow them to walk all over us.”
In a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Bennett reportedly told the prime minister his party would no longer support gestures of good faith to the Palestinians as long as the PA continues with unilateral steps, a reference to its petition to join some 15- international organizations.
“He knows how to play politics,” a party source told Ynet, but “freeing Palestinian prisoners is not politics, this is a red-line and has wide reaching ramifications.”
Bennett’s announcement threatened to shake the coalition. Bennett’s party has 12 of the 68 seats in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, and should it quit, Netanyahu would have to find new allies to maintain a working majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Politicians from other parties, including the ruling-Likud, have kept mums, but “sources” from the party stressed that Bennett’s threat is sterile, as no such deal would ever take place.
Nonetheless, party sources indicted that should the government move to authorize the release, Bennett and his party would not be the only defectors, with a number of Likud deputy ministers affiliated with party’s right flank also expected to quit.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4509370,00.html