Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could face hareidi political pressure if he reneges on ending the building freeze in Judea and Samaria, according to Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism). In an interview with Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language service, Porush also said the Palestinian Authority's tactics regarding the freeze are typical of “the Arab mentality and their wheeling and dealing.”
Porush said that he was not surprised when the Palestinian Authority demanded a continuation of the freeze at the last minute. In fact, he had predicted as much in an Arutz Sheva interview nine months ago. “Those who are familiar with the Arab mentality and their wheeling and dealing could have known,” he explained Sunday, “that the ten-month freeze is a prize for the Palestinians who would do nothing with it and then, [when it is almost over,] say that if we renew the construction they will stop the negotiations.”
While severe pressure from nationalists is a given regarding matters such as the building freeze, the hareidi populace and its politicians have traditionally shied away from taking sides in the decades-long divisive debate over Judea and Samaria. Hareidi politicians have seen the debate as an internal Zionist one, and have left the political fight over the Land of Israel to religious Zionists.
This may be gradually changing, however. The freeze on Jewish construction has been especially hard on the hareidi sector, which suffers from a severe housing shortage. Porush said that “heavy political pressure” needs to be brought to bear on Netanyahu so that he can stand up to the American pressure on the matter. Porush hedged a question about whether UTJ has threatened to leave the coalition if the freeze continues.
While worried nationalists characterized Netanyahu's speeches in Washington as “Rabin-style” or “Peres-style,” Porush said that he prefers to look at substance rather than speeches.
Netanyahu “needs to know that [we] are not small children,” he said. “We warned him and cautioned that they would behave like this before the end of the freeze, and they [the Cabinet ministers] swore that they would not surrender to pressure. Now we need to test this.”
Meanwhile, a hareidi not-for-profit organization (NPO) called Halamish is mounting a grassroots protest campaign against the continuation of the freeze. Halamish – a Hebrew acronym for “hareidim for Judea and Samaria” – has begun circulating a petition against the freeze among the hareidi public. In addition, it has been putting up signs in hareidi neighborhoods calling to end the freeze. The campaign centers on hareidi neighborhoods and cities in Judea and Samaria such as Modiin Illit, Beitar Illit and Emanuel.
While less political than the Zionist-religious community, the hareidi populace is also less "politically correct." When discussing the idea of handing over land to the Arabs, the Halamish website quotes the book of Genesis in which Ishmael is described as "a wild donkey of a man" as reason enough not to try and make peace with terrorists.