Roni Sofer
June 12, 2009 - 12:00am,7340,L-3730346,00.html

Right-wing ministers and MKs launch last-ditch efforts to influence PM's upcoming diplomatic speech: "I am under the impression that Netanyahu has not changed his skin and remains devoted to national principles," Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said Friday morning after meeting with the prime minister.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with Shas, Habayit Hayehudi and several Likud ministers and Knesset members who are pressing him not to cave in to the demands of the international community, led by the Obama administration, in the important speech he is set to deliver Sunday at Bar-Ilan University.

MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said after the meeting, "I am leaving in a calmer state than the one I arrived in. My impression is that there won't be an earthquake. Nonetheless, I am tense ahead of Netanyahu's speech."

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Hershkowitz said upon leaving the meeting that "preventing the natural growth in the settlement would be an unethical move which we won't be able to accept. The two states for two people formula is unrealistic and contradicts the Likud's views."

Hershkowitz and his faction members have also begun operating among other right-wing government members, including Likud ministers, in order to constantly pressure Netanyahu.

The ministers of the Shas party asked the prime minister "to maintain the good relations with the United States, but not to harm the principles according to which this government was established.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Netanyahu during the meeting, "It's crucial to maintain the natural development in the settlements. However, we must avoid a conflict with the United States."

Senior Shas officials said that alongside the settlement issue, Israel must demand that the Palestinians launch a war on terror, stop inciting and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Netanyahu is also being pressure in the international arena ahead of his speech. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana expressed his hope Thursday that the prime minister would commit to the two-state solution. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined US President Barack Obama in calling on Israel to freeze settlement construction.

Solana met in Ramallah with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and called on Israel to halt construction in settlements, commit to a two-state solution and resume peace talks with the Palestinians. Solana refused to say what would be the EU's response if Netanyahu continued to avoid supporting this solution.


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