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      Netanyahu Admits: Freeze Orders Go Further than Intended

      PM tells Knesset Committee that Yesha building freeze does not include construction underway. Someone forgot to tell that to the Defense Ministry.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 12/7/2009, 1:25 PM / Last Update: 12/7/2009, 1:42 PM

      In his Monday morning appearance at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the building freeze in Judea and Samaria does not include construction that is already underway. Defense Ministry inspectors issuing the orders, however, have ordered stoppages even of construction that has begun.

      One Knesset Member present at the session told Israel National News that this glaring inconsistency was not addressed at the session.

      Netanyahu defended the freeze by saying, “We said that we want to stop new construction – not construction that has already begun. During [Ehud] Olmert’s term as prime minister, there was no construction, but we stopped this freeze. The mini-cabinet’s decision has nothing to do with building that has already started. There must be coordination between the decision and its implementation.”

      Why Freeze?
      Talks with PA: Netanyahu explained that one of the reasons for the freeze concerns the diplomatic process with the Palestinian Authority, and he implied that Iran is another one: “This decision was motivated by broad considerations, including the desire to try to advance the negotiations [with the PA]; we are interested in sharpening the picture of who truly wants talks and who does not.”

      “The main problem we have is with Iran's [nuclear] arming,” the Prime Minister stated. “Our supreme interest is to prevent this from happening... In the past year, two things have happened: Iran’s progress towards nuclear power, and on the other hand, its lack of international legitimacy.”

      Only Three Weeks to Go
      “The deadline for Iran is the end of December,” Netanyahu said. “That is the time that the United States and the international community will make their decision on the topic of sanctions and the like. Russia and China are currently cooperating [with them] against Iran, but it is not certain that this will continue.”

      “Our relations with the U.S. have grown closer, and there is cooperation on the strategic plane and regarding Iran,” Netanyahu said. He noted the American efforts to stave off the Goldstone Report, as well as recent remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She spoke of the need to bridge between the PA’s demand for a total return to the pre-’67 borders and Israel’s need for security arrangements and defensible borders – namely, Netanyahu said, “control of our eastern flank.”

      Hizbullah is Lebanon’s Army
      “If in the past we related to Hizbullah as a side militia, today we know that Hizbullah is Lebanon’s real army,” Netanyahu said. “It is a strong force that arms itself and trains and organizes like an army in every sense. The Lebanese government and Hizbullah are becoming more and more intertwined, and they will bear the responsibility for any harm done to Israel.”

      Netanyahu discussed the following issues as well:

      • Gaza: “Quiet has been maintained there since Operation Cast Lead, because we respond every time there’s a shooting, and we have thus created deterrence.”
      • The influx of 5,000 Africans every year: “The reason for this is the growing gap between Israel’s developed economy and the failing economies in Africa. One can walk from Africa to the Tel Aviv area, unlike to Paris or Rome, which are separated from Africa by an ocean. We are increasing punishments against those who employ them, and we will build a physical barrier as well – and the sooner, the better.”
      • Syria: “I told [French President] Sarkozy that we are willing to renew negotiations with Syria immediately and without preconditions. If a mediator is needed, we prefer France rather than Turkey.”
      • Israel as a Jewish state: “The PA must also recognize Israel as the Jewish People’s state, thus obviating any demands for the ‘right of return’” of millions of Arabs to Israel.