Minister Hits Out over Reports US Pushing for Building Freeze
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) sharply criticized the US Wednesday, over reports that Israel's closest ally is demanding another building freeze in Judea and Samaria (Shomron).
"[A building freeze] is a redundant, deluded idea," Ariel stated to Arutz Sheva. The Minister clarified that his statements are based on past mistakes; Ariel pointed out that the last building freeze - which Netanyahu declared in 2009 - not only did not advance peace with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in any way but may have worsened the situation.
Ariel could not confirm whether or not the report itself was true during the interview, and stated that he was not aware of the details. However, he did reiterate his previous statements that "Americans do not want any construction, at all, in Judea and Samaria."
Regarding whether he thought Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will accept the freeze, Ariel replied that "anything can happen."
"We've seen difficult things befall the Jewish people [over the years]," Ariel noted. "We saw the expulsion from Gush Katif and the Sinai desert and even after all that, there is still cause for concern. We have clarified again and again that it [another withdrawal] is unacceptable to us, it's immoral, and therefore it will not happen again."
Ariel added that US Secretary of State John Kerry is making "severe mistakes" in the peace process thus far.
"If we look 270 degrees around Israel, we can see how everything the Americans touch escapes from their hands," he noted. "Thus we have Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and more. Everything is one giant failure and it is worth it for the Americans to stop and think about what they have done. Let them think about it and correct it."
Those comments echo sentiments voiced by many regular Israelis; right-wing activists recently released a new satirical website dedicated to mocking the Obama administration - and particularly US Secretary of State John Kerry's - push to force an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority within a nine-month time frame.
On a more positive note, Ariel shared good news: that building in Judea and Samaria has increased dramatically over the past year. Four to five times more buildings were built in the region over 2013 than in 2012, according to the minister.
"It's not good enough, but this is still significant progress," Ariel said. "It fills me with joy to announce it and the fact that we have just approved 296 new housing units for Beit El."