Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lacks a majority to pass a new moratorium on
housing starts in Judea and Samaria in any possible forum of ministers, The
Jerusalem Post has established.
Netanyahu has been making an effort to
gauge what kind of support he would have if he wanted to renew the freeze in
order to satisfy US President Barack Obama and bring the Palestinian Authority
back to the negotiating table.
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Sources who have spoken to many ministers
in recent days said Thursday, however, that Netanyahu had given no indication
that he had decided whether to bring a renewed freeze to a vote at all, and if
so whether he would attempt to do so before the full complement of his 30
ministers or the 15-member security cabinet.
The 10-month freeze that
ended in September was passed in the latter forum.
Legally, aides to the
prime minister acknowledge, Netanyahu would have to bring a further freeze to a
vote in either the cabinet or the security cabinet. Such a vote would be
necessary in order to require the commander of the Civil Administration for
Judea and Samaria to issue another injunction barring housing starts. The
seven-member inner security cabinet has no statutory role.
security cabinet ministers who voted last November for the first freeze have
indicated in closed conversations that they would not now vote for another. The
moratorium last year was backed by 11 of the 15 ministers, including right-wing
Likud ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Bennie Begin and Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu.
Israel Beiteinu’s Uzi Landau was the only
minister who voted against the move. Shas’s two ministers absented themselves
from the vote, and the Likud’s Silvan Shalom was abroad.
Shalom, Lieberman, Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) have all indicated that they would join Landau in
voting against another freeze now, for a total of seven definite votes against
in the security cabinet.
The five definite supporters of a renewed freeze
in the security cabinet would be Netanyahu, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor
and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman of Likud, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and
Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of
Netanyahu would then need all three remaining votes in order to
pass the freeze. Two remaining Likud ministers are loyal to Netanyahu but have
come out publicly against a renewed freeze: Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. A source close to Sa’ar said he would only make
a decision if another offer were on the table.
Construction and Housing
Minister Ariel Attias has said he would not stand in the way of passing another
freeze as long as construction afterward would be unlimited. This is unlikely to
be the case, but even if it were, the best he could do would be to absent
himself from the vote like he did last time, not cast the deciding eighth vote
In the 30-member cabinet, the 16 definite votes against a
renewed freeze would be the five Israel Beiteinu ministers, Habayit Hayehudi
leader Daniel Herschkowitz, at least three out of the four from Shas, and the
Likud’s Begin, Ya’alon, Shalom, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein,
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Communications Minister Moshe
Kahlon and Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled.
Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz
have also publicly opposed another freeze, even though their votes are less
Since the seven-member inner security cabinet has no statutory
role, it could not be used to pass a freeze even if there were a
But four ministers there oppose a renewed freeze: Begin,
Ya’alon, Lieberman and Yishai.
Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and
Samaria director-general Naftali Bennett said he was convinced another freeze,
if Netanyahu sought one, would not pass.
Netanyahu’s associates declined