Israel must take unilateral measures to curb settlement building outside of the main blocs and Jerusalem, Minister Dan Meridor said Friday evening on Channel 2.
"Every building beyond the main blocs will harm the prospects of a two-state solution," Meridor said. "We must put a stop to settlement construction past the Green Line, other than in the main settlement blocs."
Worried about Israel's growing isolation in the international community, the prominent minister counseled a change in strategy that would convince the world that Israel is serious about the peace process.
In the recent January 22 elections, Meridor failed to regain a seat in the Knesset. A Jerusalem Post expose revealed that hardline right-wing activists had joined the Likud party to back hawkish candidates, while eventually voting for other right-wing parties in general elections. The move could have been a factor in Meridor's losing his Knesset seat.
Meridor's comments came as Barack Obama announced his first visit to Israel since becoming president of the United States. Many expect him to renew a bid for a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. In addition, the new US Secretary of State John Kerry phoned both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the diplomatic process, in an early sign he intends to make this a top priority on his agenda.
"We must make unilateral moves," said Meridor. "We need to allow ourselves space to breathe." According to Meridor, the world questions Israel’s sincerity when it says it favors a two-state solution but continues to build everywhere in the territories, even in areas most assume will be part of a future Palestinian state.
Though calling for Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority, Meridor stopped short of acceding to the demands of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been calling for a complete halt to settlement construction beyond the Green Line as a precondition to peace negotiations. "We must not implement a settlement moratorium," Meridor said. "We can't withdraw the IDF from the West Bank. Look at what happened in Gaza."
Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The coastal enclave was quickly overrun by Hamas and used as a launching pad to fire rockets at southern Israel since then.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report