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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Netanyahu caves on 'settlement freeze'?

YNet reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu has made a normalization gesture to the Obama administration, agreeing to freeze new building in the 'settlements' until the beginning of 2010. That would be four and a half months from now - much less than Obama wanted but more than Netanyahu had previously been willing to give.
Despite pressure from right-wing ministers, the housing minister has yet to issue one building tender in the settlements, including in the large settlement blocs, since Netanyahu has taken office. This has been confirmed by Prime Minister Netanyahu's office. The ministry also did not issue new tenders in the final days of Olmert's administration. The right-wing and the haredi sector have expressed their disappointment over this quiet policy.

Right-wing ministers claim that this policy has been forced upon Israel and undermines the country's sovereignty in areas over which there should not be any dispute.

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Daniel Hershkowitz attacked the settlement freeze policy: "The State of Israel is not a satellite of the US. We have a strategic alliance and close friendly relations with the Americans, but it is a two-way alliance. They need us, too, and we must stand our ground, even more so since the Palestinians show their true face anew each and every time proving that theirs is not a face of peace. As long as this remains the situation in the Middle East, the Americans must halt their pressure on the settlement and not prevent natural growth just as we do not get involved in building in Arizona. The natural growth in Judea and Samaria and the building in the settlement blocs and Jerusalem are a red line that must not be crossed."

The ultra-Orthodox sector, which also suffers from a severe housing shortage, also raised claims against the Shas housing minister. According to them, the sector is currently in need of 20,000 housing units, and building in towns such as Beitar Illit could solve the problem, even if only partially.
The Housing Minister is Ariel Atias of Shas, whose party leader, Eli Yishai, has been vocal about permitting construction in Judea and Samaria (particularly in Beitar Ilit and Kiryat Sefer, which are Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) dominated cities.

A 3-6-month 'freeze' was expected (at least I expected it). There is no mention of completing existing projects - hopefully they are being completed. Hopefully, there is no 'freeze' in Jerusalem (I didn't see that mentioned either).

But I'm more concerned with the idea that there is (or could be) a de facto freeze that will go on for much longer. And of course I am concerned that the Obumbler can and will disavow having reached any agreements with Israel come January.

You don't make concessions to a snake.


In an interview with Israel Radio, Housing Minister Ariel Atias said that there is no 'freeze,' but that the government is 'waiting' for a deal to be struck with the United States. He acknowledged that the government has not issued a single housing tender in Judea and Samaria since it came to power five months ago.

If Obama wants to stop Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, it seems that all he has to do is keep on negotiating. And he's real good at that.

Atias also said that there are people living in 'illegal outposts' who received government-backed mortgages to purchase their homes. In response, Kadima's Meir Shitreet, who was Atias' predecessor and is one of Kadima's most left-leaning MK's, said that anyone who was involved in using government money to finance home purchases in 'illegal outposts' should be prosecuted.

Save that quote somewhere.


At 11:35 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

What will Israel receive in exchange for this concession? A Palestinian return to the negotiating table? Arab normalization of relations with Israel? And there is nothing that prevents Washington from demanding the freeze be renewed next year. We can only hope the reports are not true.

What could go wrong indeed

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Chaim said...

Tragic comedy indeed...

Democracies at each other's throats at the whim of Totalitarian Governments, thugs and murderers...with the explicit agreement to go at each other's throats between its elected leadership.



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