Former defense minister Moshe Yaalon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel plans to continue to build responsibly in Judea and Samaria, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Sunday, attempting to dispel rumors that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised the Americans he would stop Jewish building in the West Bank.
“We haven’t frozen construction,” Ya’alon told Israel Radio. “No decision was taken to do so.”
The only freeze Netanyahu has ever imposed was a moratorium on settlement starts for ten months from November 2009 to September 2010. That moratorium was the result of American pressure, but in the end, it didn’t lead to anything, Ya’alon noted.
“Since then we have been building,” he said.
One of the Palestinians’ criteria for the resumption of talks with Israel is a freeze on settlement construction and Jewish building in Judea and Samaria. It has also turned to the International Criminal Court, which has yet to make a decision on the issue.
The US has termed such construction as harmful to the peace process, but Ya’alon said he didn’t believe that halting building over the pre- 1967 lines would move the peace process forward. “The Palestinians didn’t come to the [negotiating] table even when we froze construction,” Ya’alon said.
Israel, he said, has continued to build responsibly in Judea and Samaria with an understanding that such activity is under “unjust” intense international scrutiny, both legally with regard to the ICC and from the UN Security Council.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also issued a tweet in which he said, “Israel has not made any commitments not to authorize new building in Judea and Samaria.”
But settlers have argued for months that there is a de-facto freeze, because Netanyahu has failed to advance plans that would allow construction to continue in the future.