The 'Septet' – the inner circle of ministers that votes on strategic matters – will not give in to United States pressure to extend the ten-month freeze on construction by Jews in Judea and Samaria, Minister of National Infrastructures, Dr. Uzi Landau, estimated Sunday.
"It is clear to me that the Septet – which includes Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Begin, Eli Yishai and Moshe Ya'alon – will vote to continue construction at the end of the freeze,” Landau said during a visit to Efrat in Gush Etzion. “In the past,” he added, “I spoke out very emphatically against the freeze.”
Freeze at halfway point
The ten-month freeze on construction starts by Jews in Judea and Samaria was implemented in late November, following pressure from the United States. The freeze period – which was ratified by the Septet on November 25 – reached its halfway point today. The US, which has served as mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, wanted the freeze as part of a series of gestures that it said Israel had to make so that the PA would consent to renew negotiations with it.
Landau commended Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for saying 'no' to the American demand to stop construction for Jews in Jerusalem as well. “The Prime Minister stood firm and maintained the dignity of the State of Israel while safeguarding its interests,” Landau said. “Construction in our capital is a basic right that no government in the past was willing to compromise on. In these matters we must speak with a clear voice, without hesitating, and we must not apologize for these things.”
“In the past year Israel has made many gestures toward [PA chief] Abu Mazen,” he elaborated. “We removed checkpoints, assisted in developing the economy and agreed to a temporary freeze on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. Until now we have seen no gesture from the other side. If the Palestinians truly want an arrangement, it is time that they, too, show the seriousness of their intentions and sit down to negotiations without preconditions.”
Minister Benny Begin visited Efrat two weeks ago, and Minister Yaalon will visit it Monday. Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi has told the visiting ministers that there has been a de facto freeze on construction in Efrat for a decade, despite the fact that the town is supposedly within the national consensus.