Mofaz: Renewing freeze would be tragic mistake

Kadima MK joins voices against accepting US proposal for extension of moratorium; Shas remains adamant regarding freeze conditions.

November 21, 2010 01:58
3 minute read.

Mofaz. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file[)

The 10-month West Bank building freeze was a critical mistake, but having made it, Israel has no choice but to continue onward to a second – but final – freeze, Kadima MKs told The Jerusalem Post over the weekend.

Reflecting on the American proposal for a 90-day building moratorium, Kadima MK Yohanan Plesner argued that under a Kadima government, West Bank building would have continued; while MK Avi Dichter complained that the freeze kept key issues, such as Gaza, off the table.

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“The total freeze for 10 months was a serious mistake,” said Dichter. “It was clear that it would come to an end, and that in those 10 months nothing dramatic could happen between Israel and the Palestinians – leaving us in the same situation as at the beginning.

“[Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu made a second mistake when he didn’t agree to the American request to extend a two-month freeze immediately on September 26, and insist that it was the last freeze. If he had, we’d be one week away from the end, rather than in our current state.”

Dichter said the “main problem is that the topic of the freeze has become the central topic of discussion, rather than talks between us and the Palestinians.

The Palestinians stand on the side and watch this side issue make it harder for Israel on the diplomatic front.”

With the freeze as the central topic, Dichter complained, “our main problem is now with the Americans. If the freeze wasn’t on the table, our main problem would be with the Palestinians.”

The former internal security minister said that Israel is now in a position in which it has no choice but to pursue an additional freeze – but stressed that Israel must then demand an end to the moratoriums.

“The condition of the freeze must be that we bury this issue once and for all. Just as Israel doesn’t ask the Palestinians to stop shooting rockets in Gaza before we hold talks, we need to tell the Palestinians to leave the issue of settlements to us.

We have taken action on it before – when we decided to evacuate settlements; we have proven that we can and will, and on a large scale. We must take this topic off the agenda.

The whole process between us and the Palestinians cannot be solely about the freeze.”

Dichter argued that, eventually, Netanyahu will need to shuffle his coalition in order to reach any development on the diplomatic front.

“With such vast differences between the Left and the Right of his government, Netanyahu’s hands will be tied until he makes changes,” Dichter promised, hinting that Kadima could still be a viable partner to pursue a peace settlement with the Palestinians.

Plesner echoed Dichter’s opinion, saying that “Kadima consistently has been unenthusiastic about the moratorium, and that is still the case.”

But Netanyahu’s great mistake, said Plesner, was in agreeing to freeze building indiscriminately, without differentiating between settlement blocs and isolated settlements.

“If Netanyahu had been brave enough to freeze building in isolated settlements, we would have been able to maintain the oral commitments that the Kadima government received from the Americans permitting building in east Jerusalem and in the settlement blocs,” Plesner complained.

“To now foster trust between Israel and the Americans, we have to consider this offer, on condition Netanyahu uses those 90 days to restore the understandings that were already in place,” he continued.

“If he doesn’t use them to restore the differentiation between settlement blocs and isolated settlements, we will find ourselves in the same position again, because nobody thinks that Netanayhu will reach a final-status agreement in 90 days. And if there isn’t a final-status agreement at the end of those 90 days, we will be asked to do another freeze, and another one.”

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