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(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed his aides and Likud ministers over the weekend to stop referring to Israel's commitments in a deal with US President Barack Obama as a "settlement freeze."
Instead of a freeze (hakpa'ah in Hebrew), it will be referred to as a suspension (hash'ayah), a waiting period (hamtana), or even a cutback (tzimtzum) of Jewish construction in the West Bank.
In English, the word freeze that Netanyahu used just two weeks ago in Europe will be replaced by the sanitized word "moratorium."
For months, the prime minister's staff had been careful not to say freeze and instead spoke about accepting limitations on construction, but now the word is officially taboo. Netanyahu also strategically stopped asking for natural growth in Judea and Samaria and instead preached for settlers to be able to lead normal lives.
"The fact that it actually is a suspension and not a freeze has helped," said Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein, the only Likud minister who lives in a settlement (Alon Shvut).
"It's not merely a game of words. I'm not interested in semantics. Israel has made less of a commitment, and it will be easier to get out of it if it doesn't work."
Kadima strategist Eyal Arad, who coined the term disengagement for prime minister Ariel Sharon's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, rejected comparisons between his and Netanyahu's word play.
"Bibi is playing completely different games," Arad said. "All his words hide that he is blatantly withdrawing from agreements reached with the US. Over the last five years, there was permission to build in settlement blocs and Jerusalem and now, no matter what name they use for it, a Likud government won't build at all."
Arad, who helped Netanyahu get elected prime minister in 1996, said he was making a strategic mistake by trying to use terminology to his advantage.
"It sounds like an attempt to whitewash what he is doing," Arad said.
"It harms his credibility. He is better off saying that he is freezing the settlements and give reasons why, or say that he refuses to stop building, but instead he is trying to have his cake and eat it too and pretend that there is building when there's not. That's an Isra-bluff."
National Union MK Arye Eldad attacked Netanyahu and the Likud from the Right.
"He thinks whitewashed words would be enough to convince ministers to stay in a Likud government that builds only a 10th as much as the Leftist government that preceded it," Eldad said. "Likudniks just need nice words, not real actions."