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Housing Minister: Construction Freeze is in Barak’s Hands

Housing Minister Attias says that even if Netanyahu ends the freeze, Barak could perpetuate it by refusing to sign construction requests.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/4/2010, 12:18 PM / Last Update: 7/4/2010, 12:39 PM

Flash 90

Who’s in charge of government policy – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak? Though Netanyahu heads the second-largest party, the largest bloc of parties, and the government itself, Housing Minister Ariel Attias of Shas feels that it is Defense Minister Ehud Barak who has the power to make some of the more important decisions.

Barak heads the Labor Party, which is currently the Knesset’s fourth-largest party. It has lost more than two-thirds of its strength over the last 18 years, dropping in the last six Knesset elections, from 44 seats in 1992 to only 13 today.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Israel Our Home) said on Sunday, “We are a nationalist government; Labor joined [only] because it is used to sitting in the coalition, and will remain because it has nowhere else to go. We must respect the US which agree to the ten-month freeze, but at the end of the ten months, we must end the freeze.”

Despite this, it appears that Barak might have the final word. This follows from the fact that Judea and Samaria is officially under military rule. Housing Minister Attias told Voice of Israel Radio on Sunday, “Even if the freeze ends, we will not be able to release tenders for construction in Judea and Samaria if Barak does not sign the requests for construction that have been lying on his desk. Regardless of whether the freeze is extended or not, without Barak’s signature there will be no construction.”

At a conference in the Knesset last week on the construction freeze, Yesha Council head Danny Dayan said that Barak must be pressured to be more lenient on Jewish housing requests in Judea and Samaria. When MK Michael Ben-Ari said that Dayan should be assigning the responsibility to Netanyahu, Dayan agreed that it was not perfectly clear whether it was Netanyahu leading Barak or the opposite.