PM rebuffs Edelstein bid for new settlement construction

Public diplomacy minister the solitary voice at meeting of Likud ministers who asks PM to order Barak to authorize new construction.

Yuli Edelstein 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Yuli Edelstein 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected an effort by Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein to get the cabinet to authorize new building in the settlement blocs.
Although he knows he is not alone, Edelstein was a solitary voice at Sunday’s meeting of Likud ministers when he asked Netanyahu to order Defense Minister Ehud Barak to authorize new construction.
Barring that, Edelstein asked the prime minister to strip Barak of his power to authorize settlement building and to create instead a ministerial committee for Judea and Samaria that would permit such construction.
Other Likud cabinet ministers issued statements last week in support of settlement construction, including Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livat, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
But on Sunday, “ministers preferred to keep silent,” Edelstein said.
According to Edelstein, Netanyahu said it was important at this time to look at the larger picture and the challenges that Israel faces.
Edelstein said he told the prime minister that the Palestinians had no intention of halting their provocative activity.
They have the backing of the UN Security Council, as shown by the almost unanimous support they garnered there on Friday in an attempt to condemn Israel for “building a kindergarten” in the West Bank, on the same day that hundreds of pro-democracy activists in the Middle East were lying dead or wounded in the streets, Edelstein said.
He said he planned to continue bringing up the issue at the ministerial meetings, because the situation in which new construction was frozen in larger settlements such as Betar Illit, Ma’aleh Adumim, Ariel and Efrat was intolerable.
“I think there is an understanding on that on the part of many ministers,” Edelstein told The Jerusalem Post. “Some were frightened by the timing of today. I hope they will start raising their voices.”
Separately, later on Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislative overwhelmingly rejected a National Union-sponsored bill to apply Israeli law to the settlements, which are currently under military law.
Such legislation would make it difficult to impose a freeze on West Bank Jewish construction.
Right-wing lawmakers have sought to pass such a bill since the 15th Knesset that sat from 1999- 2003.
National Union chairman Ya’acov Katz said that even though the ministerial committee rejected the bill, he plans to bring it to the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.
He said he understood that it was unlikely to pass, but that it was important to put parliamentarians on record with regard to a bill that Netanyahu had supported in the 17th Knesset when he was the opposition leader.
“It’s the weakness of the prime minister that unfortunately he is not doing what he promised before the election,” or acting on beliefs that he displayed in the past, Katz said.
Given that an election is likely within the next year or six months, voters should be able to see which lawmakers kept or did not keep their word, Katz added.