construction work in beitar illit 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The 10-month construction moratorium in Judea and Samaria will end as planned on September 25, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reassured Likud MKs at Monday’s faction meeting in the Knesset.
Due to the tensions with US President Barack Obama’s administration, the prime minister persuaded Likud hawks to call off Thursday’s Likud central committee meeting, which was expected to pass a resolution obligating the party’s representatives to oppose extending the freeze, but he made his opinion on the matter clear to the MKs.
“The security cabinet decision about the end of the freeze after 10 months is binding,” Netanyahu said. “Building everywhere in Jerusalem will continue as it has over the past 42 years.”
In a speech welcoming Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to the Knesset two hours later, the prime minister reiterated that there was a near consensus in Israel and around the world regarding Israel keeping Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem over the pre-1967 armistice line.
“Over the past 40 years, there has not been a government in Israel that agreed to limit building in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said.
“All of our governments built in Gilo, Neveh Ya’acov, Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramat Shlomo and elsewhere. Forming these neighborhoods did not harm the Arabs of east Jerusalem in any way and they were not built at their expense. Nearly half of the Jewish population in Jerusalem now lives in these neighborhoods. There is nearly complete agreement that these neighborhoods will remain part of Israel in any final-status peace deal. We will continue to maintain Jerusalem as a united city that is open to all religions, in which Jews and Arabs live side by side in coexistence,” the prime minister said.
While all 30 ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet continued to stand by him in the face of American pressure to stop building over the Green Line in the capital, Labor rebel MKs Amir Peretz, Eitan Cabel and Daniel Ben-Simon submitted a proposal to their faction calling for a complete construction freeze over the pre-1967 line until negotiations with the Palestinians have been completed.
“Jerusalem will not be harmed if there is no construction there for a year,” Peretz said. “We are talking about neighborhoods that are neither holy nor historic. It is important to calm the tensions, start negotiations and keep America on our side as we face the Iranian threat.”
Labor chairman Ehud Barak blocked Peretz from bringing the proposal to
vote in the faction. He said the matter required discussion, which
would only take place after Pessah, which ends on April 5.
Barak met on Monday with US envoy George Mitchell’s deputy Fred Hoff
and American Ambassador James Cunningham and discussed how to decrease
tensions and restart negotiations with the Palestinians.
“The government must work to ensure that the crisis will be forgotten
and the talks will get back on track,” Barak told his faction. “That’s
one of the reasons we are in the coalition.”
Sources close to opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that she, like
Netanyahu and Barak, believed that Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem
were part of the Israeli consensus, but they said she disagreed with
how Netanyahu was handling the issue.