Settler leaders to PM: Keep commitment to end freeze

Yesha Council reminds Netanyahu of promise as 10-month-long partial building moratorium order expiration date nears.

West Bank construction work [illustrative] (photo credit: AP)
West Bank construction work [illustrative]
(photo credit: AP)
Settler leaders urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to stand behind his promise to renew building in the West Bank when the 10-month-long partial building moratorium order expires on September 26.
The Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria issued a letter in which they “strongly urged the Prime Minister to not capitulate on this commitment in upcoming negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.”
The building moratorium is one of the most important issues facing would-be negotiators in advance of the expected opening of direct talks in Washington late next week. Palestinian negotiators have said that a continuation of the order is a precondition for holding talks, while Israeli negotiators have refused to consider any preconditions.
The letter issued Wednesday was supported by the heads of all of the regional councils who are members of the Yesha Council, all of whom are currently under the moratorium order. The letter was not only sent to Netanyahu, but also to the other 120 ministers and MKs.
“Any failure to immediately issue these permits and allow construction to resume will be viewed as an effective continuation of the freeze and lead to serious diplomatic and political implications for our country,” wrote the council heads.
“This is not a time to mince words as this is literally a day of judgment for our Prime Minister and government. If we are not given the legal right to actually build homes for our families and children, we cannot allow this coalition to continue to govern,” said Yesha Director-General Naftali Bennett.
“The Prime Minister needs to appreciate that we will stand firm on our commitments to strengthen and expand the communities and we cannot bend to any international pressure,” Bennett added. “These upcoming negotiations promise to be another futile display of diplomacy but we must not allow citizens of Israel to become the scapegoats in this process.”
On Tuesday, in response to perceived pressure to continue the freeze, Coalition Chairman MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) and MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), co-chairmen of the Knesset Lobby for the Land of Israel issued a statement “repelling the American threat of getting involved in democratic decisions made by the government of Israel.”
“The lobby supports the position of the Prime Minister and the majority of ministers in the cabinet that the government’s decision will not be changed and the moratorium will end on September 26. The lobby itself – which is the biggest ‘faction’ in the Knesset, will stand at guard and will make sure that building throughout Judea and Samaria will be carried out immediately with the expiration of the moratorium.”
Bennett welcomed what he described as wide-reaching support within the coalition for restarting building in the council’s communities as soon as the moratorium order expires.
“In the last few days, over half of the ministers of the government – from Moshe Kahalon to Daniel Hershkowitz, Limor Livnat to Yuli Edelstein – have expressed that not only will the freeze expire, but that there is going to be active building all around Judea and Samaria,” Bennett said Wednesday evening.