Landau: Gov't must discuss freeze

Landau seeks govt debat

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau on Sunday filed an appeal over the cabinet's decision to freeze construction in West Bank settlements for 10 months, asking that the government hold a debate on the moratorium. "This is a major issue on the state's agenda and it is vital that all the ministers be allowed to express their position," Landau told Army Radio, going on to attribute the decline in Israel's reputation around the world to what he termed "losing the battle for justice." While Israel wasn't standing up for its rights and fighting for justice, said Landau, the Palestinians were winning the battle by "claiming we stole their land … and forced them to become refugees." The Israel Beiteinu minister added that Israel's policies are creating the impression abroad that the Jewish state does not want Judea and Samaria. "When you look at [King] Solomon's Trial you see both women fighting for the child, and the feeling is that we're acting as though the child is not ours." Landau stated that one had only to look at the world's reaction to the settlement freeze offer to realize that Israel would not reap any benefits from it. "The Palestinians will always put the latest [offer] in their pockets while continuing to demand all the rest," he said, adding that the US had also not lessened its demands in response to Israel's latest concession. "We must follow the example of [former prime minister Menahem] Begin, who annexed the Golan Heights and facilitated the attack on the Iraqi nuclear facility," said Landau. "We are acting as though justice is not on our side," he concluded. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the training of 40 inspectors within the coming two weeks to enforce the building moratorium. The new supervisors will join 14 construction supervisors currently working in the West Bank. Barak said that Israel Police, Civil Administration and Border Police forces would work together with the IDF to enforce the 10-month building freeze. Over the weekend, the Civil Administration moved swiftly to distribute injunctions to settler leaders which immediately suspended for 10 months all new Jewish construction projects in the West Bank that have not broken ground. At a meeting of Likud ministers on Sunday morning, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom, Minister for Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon and Environment Minister Gilad Erdan criticized Netanyahu's decision to freeze settlement construction. Shalom called the move "unnecessary," claiming the moratorium would not lead to the resumption of peace talks. "It was an unnecessary decision that will not bring about the reintroduction of negotiations. Just like after the Bar-Ilan speech, the Palestinians will ask for more and more concessions," said Shalom. "Such a serious decision requires public and internal debate. I hope that will happen in the near future. A real change like this requires convening all the proper institutions. The settlers are confused and feel threatened. Harming the settlements will have implications on the country's future," he warned. Erdan warned that freezing West Bank construction could severely violate human rights. "These are extreme measures that call for [the settlers] to wait for the supervisors of the Civil Administration , but there is not enough manpower to handle this work," he told Army Radio. "I believe the orders [prohibiting the construction of new structures in settlements] are not legal … the [government] hurried to hand out orders before Shabbat, but the defense minister has yet to issue any guidelines," said Erdan. As of Sunday morning, eleven out 30 ministers in Netanyahu's government are against the settlement freeze. Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat, Science Minister Daniel Hershkowitz and four Shas MKs have also voiced opposition to the cessation of building. Also Sunday, Likud MK Danny Danon delivered the required number of signatures of central committee members to force a meeting of the party's committee to its chairman, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon. Kahlon called on the Likud central committee to convene to discuss Netanyahu's decision to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria.