west bank construction settlement 248 .
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The mostly-united front presented by Likud ministers following last week's announcement by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu regarding the settlement freeze showed signs of weakness Thursday, as a number of Likud officials began to speak out against aspects of the ten-month moratorium.
One after another, three different members of Likud's ten-highest ranked politicians voiced warnings, while a Likud-dominated Knesset subcommittee called for a freeze to the freeze.
Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who voted in favor of the freeze last week as a member of the security cabinet, warned Thursday that if it continued beyond the 10-month period, ministers would begin to resign.
Ya'alon's comments reflected earlier claims by Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, in which Begin promised that at the end of the 10-month period, building would begin "at a faster pace than before the freeze."
Ya'alon and Begin were reportedly negotiating partners yesterday, approaching Netanyahu with a request that he rein in Defense Minister Ehud Barak, seen as the force behind the enforcement of the freeze.
But Ya'alon, who is known for his sometimes loose lips, was not the only minister to raise an eyebrow at the freeze Thursday. Likud central committee chairman and Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon told Army Radio that he was disappointed with the initial reception of the freeze.
"We didn't expect a thank you, but we did expect some kind of gratitude. It took [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] 24 hours to respond," Kahlon said. "Europe is unilaterally declaring east Jerusalem [as the Palestinian capital] and the US did not send us flowers following this move. We should have found a different way to iron out the difficulties."
Deputy Pensioners Affairs Minister Leah Ness also attacked the practice - if not the principle - of the freeze. "The trampling enforcement of the orders stems from Ehud Barak's political interests," she told a pro-settler Website. "This is worse than disengagement."
A subcommittee of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee also called Thursday on Barak to freeze the freeze, pending the solution of a number of legal issues that have arisen. Three of the five members of the Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria - Ze'ev Elkin (its chairman, and the coalition's chairman; Likud), Tzipi Hotovely (also Likud) and Arye Eldad (National Union) raised a number of concerns.
The MKs examined the lack of coordination between administrative decisions and their execution, citing the fact that the original decision was to start the freeze from the first day of official publication of the decision, but the orders handed out said that the freeze was immediate.
Similarly, the MKs complained that there was no apparatus in place to determine how and how much residents would be compensated for losses incurred as a result of the moratorium.
"The current process is worse than the disengagement [from Gaza]," said Hotovely following the meeting. "According to what we heard during the hearing, we are witness to a complete disregard for residents' rights. This wrong moratorium is underway with no planning and no way to compensate citizens and contractors whose entire sin was to build a house in the land of Israel."
By a vote of 3-2, with Hotovely, Elkin and Eldad voting in favor and MKs Yuli Tamir (Labor) and Gideon Ezra (Kadima) opposing, the subcommittee voted to call on Barak to suspend the construction bans until these and other problems were solved.
Tamir complained that the entire purpose of the complaints regarding the administration of the orders was "due to only one thing: an escape tunnel for settlers so that they don't have to carry out the orders."