Rather than the Palestinian Authority dropping out of talks with Israel as it said it would, the Arab League has decided to give U.S. President Barack H. Obama another month to pressure Israel to extend the building freeze in Judea and Samaria. And with the heat on Obama to come up with some accomplishment to present to voters in advance of the midterm elections, Israeli officials are bracing themselves for a full-court press by Obama to push Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to agree to an extension of the freeze – pressure which, if Netanyahu has still not capitulated, is likely to get even worse after the elections.
The question most Israelis are asking themselves, of course, is whether Netanyahu can stand up to the pressure.
MK Uri Orbach thinks he can. “Standing up to the pressure is his job. He will have to resist the American pressure, and we are here to help him do that.” Orbach told Israel National News that his party, Bayit Yehudi, is working to ensure that Netanyahu continues to stand up to the pressure.
Despite the fears of increased American pressure in the weeks ahead, Orbach says that Bayit Yehudi is satisfied with the situation as it stands. “There is no freeze right now. The freeze ended last week, and building is beginning.” Although the tractors haven't hit the ground in most places, Orbach says that the paperwork and permits that will enable construction to begin is being processed at a good rate.
Orbach added that he did not believe any further declarations that the freeze was over were needed. “The government, the Prime Minister, has said numerous times that the freeze is over and that it will not be renewed. We also said numerous times that if the freeze were renewed, it would be a very big problem for us.”
As far as Orbach can tell, Netanyahu is so far living up to his word, and further declarations on the end of the freeze are not necessary. The PA has demanded that Israel declare officially that the freeze will be extended as a condition for continuation of negotiations, but Orbach does not believe that an opposite declaration – that Israel will build in all parts of Judea and Samaria – is needed at this point.
Still, the party is keeping its eye on the situation. If, for some reason, Netanyahu fails to continue to show the same resolve in the face of increased American pressure, Orbach says that Bayit Yehudi's continued cooperation with the government would be at risk. “There is no freeze, and we are here to make sure that there is no freeze,” says Orbach. “And we will continue to be here – as long as there is no freeze.”