Mixed messages over building freeze

Lieberman, Meridor express differing views on settlement construction.

lieberman threatening 311 (photo credit: AP)
lieberman threatening 311
(photo credit: AP)
On the same day Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met in the White House with US President Barack Obama, two of the six ministers in Netanyahu’s inner cabinet expressed widely divergent views regarding whether Israel should extend its self-imposed settlement construction moratorium.
While Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor advocated a policy of renewing construction only in settlements in the large settlement blocs, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, his colleague in Netanyahu’s premier decision- making forum known as the septet, said the moratorium freeze would end as scheduled on September 26.
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Acknowledging that once the moratorium ended Israel had no obligation to extend it, Meridor said in an Israel Radio interview, however, that Israel still had to decide where it was smart to build.
Hinting that Israel should build inside the security fence, but not beyond, Meridor said, “I think there is a great deal of logic in investing all our efforts – diplomatic, economic, and security – in preserving the [settlement] blocs that will be part of our state. Therefore, that is where it is right and where we should build.”
On the other hand, he said, it would not be “right” to invest diplomatic efforts and financial resources in places that would become part of a future Palestinian state.
“If my opinion is accepted,” Meridor said,” we should announce that we will build in what is known as the blocs, or inside the [security] fence, and it would not be right to build beyond the fence.”
Meridor stressed this was his opinion, and not that of the government.
In Finland, however, Lieberman – during a meeting with Finnish President Tarja Halonen – sent a completely different message.
According to a statement issued from Lieberman’s office, he said “it is important that direct talks with the Palestinians are renewed, and every Israeli government supports this.” But, Lieberman added, “we will not agree to any payment for this, and there is no chance that the freeze will be extended. On September 26, life in Judea and Samaria will return to normal, and if the Palestinians want a normal life for their people as well, the only way is to return to direct negotiations without preconditions.”