As the sun set on a dirt field at the edge of the Revava settlement in Samaria
on Sunday, thousands of right-wing activists counted down the remaining seconds
of the freeze that temporarily put a halt to the construction of 2,066 Jewish
housing units across the West Bank.
“Three, two, one, the moratorium has
ended on the 18th of Tishrei,” MK Danny Danon (Likud) yelled out as he stood on
a large outdoor stage that had been set up for the event.
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On a white
screen behind him, the large black numbers of a digital clock flashed down to
zero. At that instant, the settlement supporters from Israel and abroad burst
into loud applause, as activists on stage and in the audience released hundreds
of balloons into the air.
Yvonne Biork, a Pentecostal Evangelical from
Sweden, blew a large shofar.
“We love Israel,” yelled out Biork, who came
to the rally with a group of female Pentecostals.
They wore flowing white
skirts tied at the waist with gold sashes and blue vests with gold stars of
“God is with you,” she said.
Technically the freeze ended
at midnight, but the World Likud, which organized the Revava event, marked the
end of the 10-month moratorium according to the Hebrew calendar, by which the
day ends at sundown.“Tonight, we are returning this decree to the trash bin of history,” Danon
“Starting tomorrow morning, we will resume building,” said Danon.
“I want to send a message to [US President Barack] Obama. We have a lot of
respect for the American president and for the American people, but we ask you
to respect our democracy and the rights of the Jewish people to build their
homes in the Land of Israel.”
With its live music and the large waving
flags brought by many participants, including the national flags of Israel,
China, the US and Canada, Sunday afternoon’s event seemed like an outdoor
But settlers leaders and MKs who spoke at the rally struck a
somber note and reminded the participants that the settlement enterprise was
still in danger.
“We are not celebrating,” said Benny Katzover, who heads
the Samaria Citizens’ Committee. “We are not sure what the next two hours will
bring, let alone the next two days. A great fear fills my heart.”
the last hours of the freeze ticked away, the media speculated that it might be
The Citizens’ Committee is so concerned about this possibility
that it has created a plan that includes a hunger strike to combat any
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said that at midnight, the
government would be tested to see if it plans to follow in the path of former
prime minister Ariel Sharon, who gave away Gaza, or it is intends to keep to the
platform of the Likud Party.
“We won’t support any diplomatic process
that destroys the Zionist enterprise in Judea and Samaria,” said
She warned that the negotiations for a two-state solution and
not the moratorium was the true danger to the State of Israel and the settlement
“What is the point of building a thousand more homes if in two
months the prime minister intends to give up parts of Judea and Samaria? What is
it worth if a Palestinian state is created?” Hotovely asked.
She said she
opposed such a Palestinian state and that she did not believe the Likud had been
voted into power to bring about its creation.
“The Likud was chosen to
lead the government because of its commitment to guard the land,” she
Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said he wanted to
strengthen Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu so that he could withstand both the
domestic and international pressure to extend the moratorium.
asked Netanyahu to put Defense Minister Ehud Barak “in his place” and to keep
him from harassing settlers.
MK Ayoub Kara (Likud) said he did not
believe the moratorium has advanced the cause of peace on either
The rally was the third event of the day for the settler leaders
and right-wing parliamentarians. They also stopped in the nearby settlement of
Kiryat Netafim, where they brought in a cement mixer and symbolically poured
cement onto a small corner of a lot designated for a nursery school.
Irrespective of the freeze, the school lacks authorization.
morning, settler leaders and the MKs of the Knesset Caucus for the Land of
Israel paid a visit to the Kfar Eldad settlement in Gush Etzion, which similarly
lacks construction permits and will not be able to build homes on Monday
Seated in a succa outside the home of caucus chairman Ze’ev
Elkin (Likud), they talked about the moratorium’s end over plates of humous and
Peace Now has estimated that work on 2,066 housing units has
been frozen for the past 10 months, even as construction was allowed to continue
on 3,000 others.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, 796
housing units were completed in West Bank settlements in the first half of 2010,
while the moratorium was in place.
As of June 2010, work was under way on
Peace Now has also spoken of another 11,000 apartments units
that need only local approvals before construction can get under way.
NGO noted that many of those projects are in settlements that do not have a
housing shortage, whereas many settlements in areas that are likely to be
retained under any final-status agreement are almost out of approved
It is likely that within a year, some areas of high growth,
such as Ma’aleh Adumim and Betar Illit, could be out of permits.
Eldad, Dayan said that what was needed now was government authorization of new
construction projects so that life in the settlements could return to
Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, said
that people were now waiting to see if Netanyahu was serious about renewing
“It is our natural right to build here,” he said. “There is no
reason to stop building now.”