Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intends to “punish” the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria by freezing all new construction in the region, Channel 2 News reported on Friday.
According to the unverified report, the members of the Likud’s coalition negotiation team have made it clear to MK Uri Ariel, who heads the coalition talks on behalf of the Bayit Yehudi party, that the new the government, when formed, will immediately freeze construction in all areas of Judea and Samaria outside the so-called “settlement blocs.”
The Channel 2 report explained that Netanyahu has a bone to pick with the residents of Judea and Samaria because of their tendency in recent years to become members of the Likud even though they do not intend to actually vote for the Likud in the election.
Netanyahu is reportedly upset because these residents participate in large numbers in the party’s primaries so they can bring in candidates that are considered more right-wing to high-ranking spots on the party's Knesset list. When election day comes, however, they do not vote for the Likud.
Channel 2 presented statistics from the last election, according to which only a third of the people who are registered Likud members in some communities of Judea and Samaria actually voted for the party on election day. In Beit El, according to the numbers, 576 residents joined Likud but only 212 voted for the party. In Shilo, 321 joined Likud but only 127 voted for it. In Yitzhar, 100 residents joined Likud, with only 21 voting for the party. That is also the case in the rest of the country, but no statistics were brought other than those cited.
According to the report, MK Ariel was told of the impending construction freeze in a way that does not leave much room for doubt as to the seriousness of the Likud’s intentions. Netanyahu's associates reportedly clarified explicitly that there will be serious and practical implications to what Netanyahu views as the “betrayal” on the part of the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.
As a concession to restart final status talks with the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu froze construction for a 10-month period in all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria – at considerable political cost to his party and government – at the behest of U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010.
Nevertheless, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reneged on his side of the agreement, grudgingly arriving towards the end of the freeze as a guest in the White House after having been dragged there by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Three meetings later, the “talks” were over, ended by a new demand by Abbas for an additional Israeli construction freeze in order to proceed further.
The latest report of an impending construction freeze, if true, may simply be Netanyahu’s way to make a gesture towards Obama, who is planning a visit to the region later this month.
While the White House has indicated that Obama will not come to Israel and the PA with a new peace initiative, Netanyahu may be trying to appease the U.S. President who had expressed concern over parties such as the Bayit Yehudi, which is against a Palestinian state, taking part in the new coalition.
The residents of Judea and Samaria’s anger towards Netanyahu is not a secret. While he has expressed support for the settlement enterprise, in the last term Netanyahu also supported demolitions ordered by the Supreme Court in communities such as Beit El and Migron where the Supreme Court did not recognize the legality of the land acquisition. Beit El, however, reached a compromise with Netanyahu which actually led to more construction in the town.
Netanyahu, however, failed to adopt the conclusions of the Levy Report which stated unequivocally that there is no “Israeli occupation” in Judea and Samaria, despite pressure on him to do so.
Before the election in January, a spokesperson for the Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, which was evicted during the term of the last government, slammed the heads of local councils in Judea and Samaria for endorsing Netanyahu for Prime Minister.
The spokesperson, Harel Kohen, said that the Council had no business endorsing Netanyahu, because his policies have been anything but pro-Yesha.
“The public has not forgotten how the Likud and the Prime Minister imposed the building freeze on Judea and Samaria, how they destroyed Migron and the Ulpana neighborhood, and acted to prevent the imposition of Israeli law on Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria," said Cohen.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)