Settlers pleased moratorium renewal seems distant

“With God’s help, it will continue this way,” Binyamin Regional Council chairman Avi Ro’eh said.

Settlers breathe a sigh of relief with each day that passes without any sign that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will stop new construction in their communities.
“With God’s help, it will continue this way,” Binyamin Regional Council chairman Avi Ro’eh said on Thursday.
He joked that after 10 months of not being able to break new ground, there was a lot of construction dust in his region these days as earth-moving equipment prepared the ground for new foundations.
Foundations are now being laid for several hundred homes in the Binyamin region, Ro’eh said.
In the days before the moratorium on such activity expired on September 26, fearful settlers feverishly lobbied cabinet members to insure that they would keep their promises to allow building to resume. But their fears that the restrictions will be reinstated have now diminished, despite headlines that the Obama administration is optimistic that Israel will curb settlement construction.
“We are also optimistic,” he said – optimistic that Netanyahu will be able to withstand the US pressure.
Not everyone in the settlement leadership is so confident, however.
“I am worried,” Beit Aryeh Local Council chairman Avi Naim said.
Naim believes that while Netanyahu could not get the septet of senior ministers to approve a new moratorium, the full cabinet might be persuaded to do so.
The anxiety level is significantly higher among leaders in settlements where a de facto construction moratorium still exists.
In Ma’aleh Adumim, only several dozen units can be built without authorization from Netanyahu and/or Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
During the 10-month moratorium, work was allowed to continue on 3,000 housing units in the settlements that already had foundations on November 26, 2009, when the freeze was imposed.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, work was under way on 2,140 units as of June 2010, of which 152 were in Ma’aleh Adumim.
But according to the city’s Mayor Benny Kashriel, those are the last projects in the pipeline.
Even if the prime minister does not impose another moratorium, the situation in Ma’aleh Adumim will be terrible unless the government issues new housing tenders, Kashriel said.
Karnei Shomron Council chairman Herzl Ben-Arie said that his settlement and other large ones were out or almost out of permits.
He couldn’t start work on new apartments when there was a moratorium, and he can’t do it now that the freeze has expired.
For him, the debate on whether Israel should give in to the Palestinian demand to stop settlement construction is misleading.
“Make no mistake,” Ben-Arie said, “the issue here is not building, but whether Israel returns to the ’67 line.”
The US wants Israel to impose a 60- day moratorium, but if that is granted, the US would ask for another extension, and another one after that, Ben- Arie contended.
That won’t end until Israel returns to the pre-1967 border and evacuates the 300,000 people living in Judea and Samaria, he said.