Daily Israel Report

Anti-Freeze Campaign: A Word is a Word

The Yesha Council on the anti-freeze offensive, with a hi-tech campaign to ensure that the government resumes Jewish building in Judea and Samaria.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 8/8/2010, 11:31 AM / Last Update: 8/8/2010, 3:52 PM

Israel news photo

The Yesha Council is on the anti-freeze offensive. Tens of thousands of homes received a letter in the mail in recent days - part of a campaign to ensure that the government remains true to its various pledges to resume Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria immediately after the freeze expires. SMS messages and ringtones are also part of the effort.

The Netanyahu government imposed a ten-month moratorium on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria last November, under pressure from the Obama Administration, in order to motivate the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) of Fatah, to agree to direct talks with Israel. The scheme has not worked, and even indirect talks have barely begun since then.

More Giveaways Planned
Ironically, the ten months have not even expired yet, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is already talking about making more concessions in order to have the PA agree to direct talks. He said last week that he would consider transferring a strip of land north of Ramallah, in the Binyamin region, to PA administrative control, on condition that the PA agrees to direct talks.

The Yesha Council letter features direct quotes from top government ministers. Netanyahu himself is quoted as saying on Dec. 1, 2009, “I wish to clarify: The decision to suspend new construction in Judea and Samaria is one-time and temporary. Precisely as is written in the Cabinet decision, and as I have clarified in both closed and open forums, we will resume building at the end of the period.”

Similarly, quotes to the same effect over the past several months by Ministers Benny Begin, Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Ayalon and Eli Yishai are cited. Polls of the Likud membership have been taken, showing overwhelming support for an immediate resumption of construction; the results have been circulated widely. In addition, a ringtone of Netanyahu promising to resume building on the backdrop of pleasant music has been sent to Likud activists.

“A word [promise] is a word,” the Council states in large letters in the letter and in billboards across the country. In addition, thousands of SMS messages, as well as recordings of the promises of Netanyahu and Begin, have been sent to Likud members and media personalities around the country.

Media Praise
The campaign has attracted both media attention and praise. Ben Caspit of Maariv wrote that the campaign is effective in “causing severe headaches to Netanyahu,” while Razi Barkai of Army Radio called it “brilliant.”

Sima Kadmon, writing in Yediot Acharonot, elaborated: “This is a clever, cheeky campaign that utilizes new technologies and addresses the right-wing [nationalist] camp in its own language. Ever since the ‘a word is a word’ campaign began, Likud Cabinet ministers have been forced to confirm on the various networks that they are committed to their declarations. Show me one minister who would allow it to be said that his word is not a word…”

Netanyahu faces heavy pressure from the opposing camp as well. Although Obama did not say straight out during his recent meeting with Netanyahu that the freeze must continue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called on Israel to do so just over a week ago.

A major concern of Land of Israel loyalists and the nationalist camp is that while the freeze will not be renewed, neither will actual construction begin. No practical plan has yet been advanced to deal with this eventuality.

Peace Now: Either Settlements - or Two States
Peace Now – the radical left-wing organization that seeks to end all Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria – has begun a campaign of its own to perpetuate the freeze. It has invited supporters to make their own short videos explaining why the freeze should continue, and it has placed billboard ads and porch banners announcing, “In September, Israel will choose – two states.”  The organization reported that 460 housing units were built in Judea and Samaria during the past eight months despite the freeze.