MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud-Beytenu) lashed out at Economy and Trade Minister and Habayit Hayehudi MK Naftali Bennett on Thursday, accusing the minister of wavering over the release of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails, agreed to within the framework of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Hanegbi said he could not recall an instance where a senior minister agreed with the prime minister to certain understandings, only to dismiss them later, thus making Israel out to appear like a country that does not uphold its decisions on fundamental issues.
"After partners in the cabinet reached an agreement, including Habayit Hayehudi, Israel issued a an official response to the United States over the crucial diplomatic issue on the table," said MK Hangebi on Thursday. "It wasn't a coalition response, or a government response. It was a personal statement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is the state's position. I can't recall an instance in the past when somebody from among the key players at the end of this or that discussion, practicing Shabbat on the way, turned around and dismissed understandings that were achieved in a dialogue conducted in his presence, making Israel look insincere."
"Bennett offered his approval to the agreement as a sort of package deal. A part of it was freeing long-serving prisoners and the other part was strengthening the settlements in Judea and Samaria. That was his request, and it's been executed in practice, with Israel absorbing the complicated international criticism," Hanegbi explained.
"Afterward, Bennett said the decision was invalid, not a terribly affable thing, agreeable, or acceptable in coalitions, or decent toward the prime minister. In this instance, the prime minister made supreme efforts to ensure Bennett could live with the decision in peace, moving in his direction on developing the settlements, continuing to move in his direction over the issue of settlement development according to the original decision... twice more we are going to hit this kind of dilemma, and the prime minister needs to know he has the government's backing," Hanegbi said.
MK Eitan Cabel (Labor) from the opposition, lambasted the economy minister as well, calling Thursday for an urgent meeting in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee over the conduct of Habayit Hayehudi.
"Agreeing to the prisoners release in exchange for building in the territories on the one hand drags bereaved parents to demonstrations against the release and on the other hand gathers political capital, a move that contradicts ethics," Cabel said.
Habayit Hayehudi responded to the onslaught of political vituperation, maintaining that Bennett's stance on the prisoner release has been unwavering.
"Minister Bennett said he would vote against the release of terrorists, and indeed in the government he voted against it, and he'll continue working against the release of terrorists with all his power. We suggest that anyone feeling compunction over his support for the release of murderous terrorists should take a drink of water and certainly shouldn't fabricate delusional stories about the one party that opposed releasing killers."
Meanwhile, the government continued to be hit with international criticism for green lighting development in east Jerusalem. On Thursday, the EU and the U.K. joined the U.S. in condemning the ongoing construction.
"The EU has repeatedly stated that settlements are illegal under international law. It has also called on Israel to end all settlement activity, including natural growth, and to dismantle outposts erected since March 2001," EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said.