(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Agriculture Minister and chairman of the Tekuma-National Union Party Uri Ariel denounced what he said was a de facto construction freeze in the West Bank and Jerusalem, as well as the planned destruction of housing units in Beit El by the end of July.
The council of the National Union, a constituent of the Bayit Yehudi faction, which convened on Sunday night in Beit El, instructed its MKs, Ariel and MK Bezalel Smotrich, to implement “coalition sanctions” against the government until it changed these policies, which could include actions such as failing to be present for important votes in the Knesset.
The Likud party said in response that the settlements were important to the prime minister and that he would "continue to advance the settlements project” while acknowledging the current diplomatic reality.
Speaking at a press conference in Beit El, Ariel, singled out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for criticism, saying the construction freeze contravened promises made by the prime minister to Bayit Yehudi.
“This notion of a [construction] freeze needs to disappear,” said Ariel in the Binyamin region settlement Sunday night.
“It’s unthinkable that in Israel someone can freeze [construction in] Judea and Samaria and definitely, definitely not in Jerusalem,” continued the minister, who claimed that not only is there no housing construction in Jerusalem but that there is also no planning either. “There is a promise by the prime minister to market [property] in Jerusalem and it’s not being done. There is a promise to Bayit Yehudi and the National Union to continue building in Judea and Samaria and to our great disappointment these things are not happening.”
Referencing the court order issued by the High Court last month to destroy two buildings containing 24 apartments in Beit El, Ariel said that pending destruction of the Dreinoff buildings compounded the government’s contravention of agreements regarding construction in the settlements.
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Smotrich, also present, said “anyone who does not have the courage to build in Judea and Samaria undermines the Jewish and Zionist foundations of the State of Israel.”
He added that the government was elected on a “nationalist and Zionist” mandate, “and we will not permit it to act differently and embezzle the trust that it received from the public.”
In its statement in response to the comments from Ariel and Smotrich, the Likud party said that the prime minister was advancing efforts for construction in Beit El with the planned preparation of a border police base adjacent to the settlement.
“The prime minister will continue to advance the settlements project intelligently and responsibly in the face of a complex international reality,” the statement added.
Joining Ariel and Smotrich in Beit El Sunday night were the heads of the various regional councils and authorities in Judea and Samaria who convened earlier in the day to discuss the scheduled destruction of the Dreinoff buildings and issued a similar message to that of the National Union.
“The government is a right-wing government and must therefore halt the destruction and the freeze immediately,” the group of municipal leaders said following their meeting in the Dreinoff buildings. “Today, the High Court is causing destruction and the prime minister is preventing the advancement of construction plans.... We are issuing a clear message to the government: You are a right-wing government, the Bayit Yehudi and Likud parties are obligated to stop this destruction and [construction] freeze immediately.”
Earlier on Sunday, several dozen settler activists protested at various settlements around the West Bank, including Kedumim, Kiryat Arba and Shiloh, against the slated destruction of the Dreinoff buildings, describing the High Court and the High Court justices as “racist.”
Construction on the Dreinoff buildings commenced in 2010 but without necessary authorization, and the state subsequently ordered that it be halted. A High Court decision in September 2014 ruled that the property was registered to Palestinians and that the buildings should be destroyed since they did not have the requisite permits.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.
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