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Judea and Samaria council tells ministers: Reject settlement freeze
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
04/02/2014
“The next hours are critical. This is the time to act to stop this foolish move,” wrote the settler leaders during an emergency meeting.
 
Settlers on Tuesday night sent an urgent letter to cabinet ministers urging them to oppose any deal with the Palestinians that includes the release of prisoners and a building or planning freeze in Judea and Samaria.

“The next hours are critical. This is the time to act to stop this foolish move,” wrote the settler leaders during an emergency meeting, at the Ma’aleh Hahamisha hotel outside Jerusalem, held by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria. “We the council heads of Judea and Samaria call on you at this time to ask the prime minister to avoid any kind of a freeze in Jerusalem or the Judea and Samaria settlements.”

They asked the ministers to reject any type of settlement freeze should it be brought to a vote.

“We are confident that you won’t cave in to Palestinian blackmail or American pressure and temptations and that you will strengthen the prime minister in preserving the settlements,” they said.

They added that they were supporting the bereaved families of terrorism victims in their demands, based both on morality and security, not to free “those who had murdered those who were dear to them.”

Among those who took part in the meeting were council head Avi Ro’eh, his deputy Yigal Dilmoni and foreign envoy Dani Dayan.

Earlier the council said that it was “shameful” to use jailed American spy Jonathan Pollard to sway Israel to free additional Palestinian prisoners and to freeze settlements. It said that it, like the rest of the nation, wanted to to see the release of Pollard from a US jail where he has been serving a life sentence for passing classified information to Israel. But not at the price of harming the bereaved families.

The council added that pushing Israel to accept any kind of a settlement freeze, even one that involved the planning process, would not advance the peace process. It said that Israel had in the past partially frozen construction, including the 10-month moratorium on building starts from November 2009 to September 2010. But it said such steps have only pushed the Palestinians to increase its demands.

Dilmoni warned that even a partial freeze, such as halting the publication of tenders and the authorization of building permits, would have a harmful effect on settlements in Judea and Samaria.

According to reports on Tuesday, Israel had offered to “exercise restraint” in releasing government tenders for new homes in the West Bank, meaning that it would issue no new government tenders for housing in Judea and Samaria.

But Hagit Ofran, of Peace Now, said freezing the publication of tenders was “meaningless.”

She explained that tenders related only to government initiated projects executed through the Construction and Housing Ministry, but not to private sponsored projects done through the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division.

Ofran pointed out Central Bureau of Statistics data, which shows that in 2013, government sponsored Jewish building projects in the West Bank made up 45.8 percent of the starts and 7% of the finishes.

In 2012, according to the CBS, public construction for which tenders would have been needed, made up 9.9% of the starts and 29.9% of the finishes.
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