Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to freeze settlement activity in exchange for the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, Meretz Party head Nitzan Horowitz told his Knesset faction on Monday.
“I learned from official sources that there is an official agreement to freeze building in the territories in exchange for normalization [with Bahrain and UAE],” Horowitz said.
He spoke ahead of Tuesday’s signing in Washington of the Israel normalization deal with the UAE for which the annexation of West Bank settlements was suspended. A separate normalization deal with Bahrain is also expected to be signed.
Settler leaders have complained the last month about a de facto freeze, noting that no settler plans had been approved or advanced since February.
“Tomorrow’s document will be signed in Washington between the prime minister and the foreign ministers of Bahrain and the Emirates. Many will ask why these documents were not given to the Knesset for review or why a discussion was not held in the [Knesset] Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,” Horowitz said.
“Netanyahu is hiding these documents and agreements with Bahrain and the UAE because he has something to hide,” Horowitz said.
He noted the obvious, that his left-wing party welcomed the normalization deals, but strongly objected to the subterfuge.
A source in Netanyahu’s entourage in Washington dismissed the report, noting that “Horowitz’s sources as a politician are worse than the ones he had when he was a journalist.”
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) noted that the issue of whether or not there was a settlement freeze had little to do with Horowitz and everything to do with the fact that the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria had not convened for almost seven months.
“The facts of the matter are the most essential proof,” Horowitz said. “The facts are that for the first time since the end of the Obama administration, Netanyahu has prevented the convening of the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria for over half a year, thereby effectively freezing planning. When there is no planning, then very quickly, there is no building,” he tweeted.
Smotrich joined Horowitz in calling for Netanyahu to publish details of the documents to be signed Tuesday by way of proving Horowitz wrong and to assert that he did not adopt the philosophy of exchanging “peace for a freeze and the relinquishment of territory.”
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.