Tensions are high between the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) and Hatnua parties following public criticism on both sides over two controversial issues.
Bayit Yehudi is attempting to pass a bill that would make it difficult for the government to release terrorists from Israeli jails before their sentences are through – a move that Hatnua head Justice Minister Tzipi Livni strongly opposes. MKs in Hatnua added fuel to the fire by linking terrorist release to construction approvals for homes in Judea and Samaria (Shomron).
In the meantime, MK Elazar Stern of Hatnua ignited a separate debate when he accused Rabbi Dov Lior – the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hevron, and a leading figure in the religious-Zionist community – of racism against Ethiopian Jews.
But those present at the sermon during which Rabbi Lior supposedly made the comments have denied any racist comments were made.
On Saturday night, sources close to Livni caused further anger among Bayit Yehudi supporters with a statement claiming, “The spit in the face of IDF General Elazar Stern came from the mouth of [Bayit Yehudi head] Naftali Bennett and his gang" - a reference to an incident in which a teenager spat at Stern on Friday.
The statement went on to charge, “It is the Bayit Yehudi that prefers construction in settlements over any other national interest, or security interest.”
Minister Amir Peretz made similar accusations in an interview with Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel) radio. He warned that “incitement” against Livni and her party among the Bayit Yehudi party could lead to disaster.
What begins with a spit in the face could end in murder, he declared.
MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) dismissed Peretz’s warnings, which, she said, were based on lies. The youth who spit at MK Stern never claimed to have a political motive, she noted; rather, he was personally offended by Stern’s comments about Rabbi Dov Lior.
Shaked also denied claims from Hatnua that Bayit Yehudi chose construction approvals at the price of terrorist release. No offer was ever made to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria instead of freeing convicted terrorists, she said.
A similar argument came from none other than the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Senior PLO officials Yasser Abed Rabbo and Hanan Ashrawi both told AFP that there is no link between the release of Arab terrorist prisoners and Israel’s approval for construction in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
“Establishing a link between settlements and the freeing of prisoners goes against all the undertakings made,” Rabbo said.
Ashrawi added, “Such reports are fabricated and malicious. The Palestinian side never agreed to such an exchange… The only linkage with the release of prisoners that [PA Chairman Abbas] approved is in delaying the pursuit of UN membership in international agencies and organizations.”
Moreover, sources close to Bayit Yehudi party told Arutz Sheva last week that if there was such a deal, Bayit Yehudi vigorously opposed it:
“The [Jewish] public in Judea and Samaria has very clear principles, and cannot be enticed with bitter candy,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “My suggestion to Netanyahu is that he give up these dangerous deals.”
“Many freed terrorists return to terrorism. An apartment in Judea and Samaria is not worth a terrorist attack,” he added.