'No freeze vote until written proposal'

Deputy PM Meridor says promises needed in writing following Begin comments that US not to be trusted; Yosef to decide Shas stance.

November 16, 2010 13:16
4 minute read.
Israel’s deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor

Dan Meridor 311. (photo credit: The Israel Project)

The security cabinet will not vote on a US proposal for a three-month settlement freeze until the Obama administration's promises are officially delivered to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in writing, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said in an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday.

The comments came after reticence by Likud ministers about the US keeping its promises, and Shas saying it would not make a decision on the freeze until such a written proposal was received.

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Meridor stated that there were four major promises that he expected the US to fulfill in exchange for the freeze extension. Firstly, that the three month freeze would not be followed by any additional US requests for further moratoriums in the future. Secondly, that the US would use its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to block Palestinian attempts to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state in the international body. Third, a military package provided to Israel by the US that would allow Israel to maintain a military advantage over its neighbors. And lastly, an assurance that the issue of borders would not be discussed independently of other core issues such as security and the right of return.

Meanwhile, Likud MKs drafted a letter Tuesday to be sent to Netanyahu, calling on him to uphold his commitment not to renew the freeze on settlement construction.

"Commitments must be respected. We all returned and promised that after the ten month freeze we will continue building as before," the MKs wrote, according to Army Radio.

Earlier Tuesday, Likud Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin voiced his opposition to a renewed settlement freeze, stating that renewing the construction moratorium for three months would "definitely" lead to US calls for an additional freeze in the future.

Begin, believed to be the man who can best rally the Likud’s right wing, said in an interview with Army Radio that "if no agreement is reached - the Americans will ask us to continue the freeze, because they have no other solution."

Begin was also wary of US promises to fund the delivery of 20 F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets to Israel as part of the benefits package meant to convince Israel to extend the freeze. Despite Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Monday contention that the jets were more important to Israel than Likud infighting, Begin said the F-35s were a trap.

"The 20 planes offered by the US constitute an enticement meant to lure Israel into a political trap."

Begin was critical of Shas, who have said that the party may abstain from voting on whether or not to renew the freeze. A Shas abstention from the cabinet vote would likely give Netanyahu a narrow majority in favor of the freeze.

"It's strange that when the issue is being decided, the Shas ministers leave the decision in the hands of others. They didn't even participate in the ministerial committee about the first ten-month building freeze," said Begin. "They explained that their opposition to the freeze was so strong that they weren't even willing to discuss it. Meaning, then they abstained because they were against the freeze, and now they're abstaining because they support the freeze. I don't think that's a worthy public position."

The impending vote on the US proposal was not expected to occur during the security cabinet's next meeting on Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Office stated on Tuesday.

It was unclear when the security cabinet will meet to discuss the US proposal but a cabinet vote is expected in the near future.

On Tuesday, Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias said that Shas will either vote against a proposed 90-day extension of the moratorium on settlement construction or they will abstain from such a vote, depending on the opinion of the faction's spiritual leader. Attias's comments came in an interview with Israel Radio.

"We will not support the proposal. We will either oppose it or abstain from voting, depending upon the decision of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef," said Attias.

Attias said that Shas is interested in building in Jerusalem and ensuring that any freeze would not include a moratorium on construction of homes in the capital.

Attias told Army Radio on Tuesday that Rabbi Yosef had not made his final decision because the US had not given Israel its final proposal, laying out benefits the US would give Israel in return for an extension of the freeze.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is expected to vote in favor of the freeze, said that he supported the moratorium because of US promises that no further freeze would be requested in the future.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.


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