Settlers lobby ministers to oppose 'quiet freeze'

Lobbyists claim that freeze decision was made without "serious discussion" in the Knesset; Netanyahu warns against Palestinian incitement.

Construction in West Bank settlement of Efrat, April 29, 2014. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Construction in West Bank settlement of Efrat, April 29, 2014.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Settlers on Sunday lobbied ministers to oppose a “quiet freeze” on the publication of tenders and advancement of plans for homes in West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.
“We urge you to publicly declare your opposition to this freeze and to work with all your might, both politically and publicly, to advance the settlements,” wrote settler leader Avi Ro’eh in a letter that he sent to all ministers.
Ro’eh explained that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed the Defense Ministry to freeze all planning and marketing of housing units over the pre-1967 lines.
It’s problematic that Netanyahu imposed this “quiet” freeze without a serious discussion in the government or the Knesset, wrote Ro’eh, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria. There is no end date to this freeze, Ro’eh added.
His council was first alerted to the freeze after the Defense Ministry last month canceled a meeting of the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria.
At the time, officials told The Jerusalem Post that Israel was temporarily holding back on such activity to focus international attention on Palestinian failures, particularly the unity pact between Fatah and Hamas.
At the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu continued to attack the Palestinian Authority and blamed its incitement against Israel for the high rate of anti-Semitism in its territories.
“Last week, the Anti-Defamation League issued a global report in which it compared levels of anti-Semitism among adults in various places around the world,” Netanyahu said. “It seems that the place with the highest level of anti-Semitism is the Palestinian Authority, where 93 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views.
“This is the result of the Palestinian Authority’s unceasing incitement, which distorts the image of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, as we have known in other places in our past. This finds expression in the fact that they hold parades to commemorate what they call the Nakba,” Netanyahu said.
“They define the existence and establishment of the State of Israel as a disaster that must be corrected. This also finds expression in the increased activity that the Palestinians are allowing in Judea and Samaria for Hamas, which directly and openly calls for our destruction,” Netanyahu said.
“Whoever sees the establishment of the State of Israel and its continued existence as a disaster does not want peace."
But in his letter, Ro’eh urged the ministers not to be swayed by strong statements from Netanyahu.
“It appears as though the prime minister held his own in the negotiations against the Palestinians by exposing the true face of [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas as someone who rejected peace, violated understandings, acted against Israel and signed an agreement with the terrorist organization Hamas,” Ro’eh said. “To our sorrow, the reality on the ground is very different.”
Some settlers have put forth a theory that the negotiations have not ended but are continuing under the radar and away from the limelight.
The "quiet freeze", they explained, is a result of those talks. Others believe it is there to allow for negotiations to resume.
On Wednesday in London, US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Abbas, and on Thursday he spoke with Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who also visited England.
On Thursday night, Livni and Abbas met. Netanyahu’s office was quick to distance itself from the meeting and said that Livni held the meeting of her own accord and did not represent the State of Israel.
Last month the government suspended negotiations with the Palestinian Authority after it agreed to unity with Hamas.
Martin Indyk, the US envoy to the talks, which had been due to end on April 29, returned to the United States without any date for the resumption of the talks.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that earlier this month, Indyk bashed Israel in a private conversation at a hotel bar in Washington, DC, and blamed it for the recent failure of peace talks with the Palestinians.
US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf attacked the Beacon story on Twitter. She called it a “bizarre fabrication.”
“It’s false; Indyk didn’t say those things,”  she said.
Indyk has “worked his whole life for strong US-Israel ties” and has made clear that both sides are to blame.
Still, Indyk and Kerry have spoken openly of the harmful effects that building over the pre-1967 lines have had on the negotiations.