In an exclusive Arutz Sheva interview, Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) talked about his party's warnings to leave the coalition government if Arab terrorists with Israeli citizenship are released.
Ariel stated last Friday that his party will not stay in the government if it releases terrorists to continue peace talks, following denied reports of a deal to release Jonathan Pollard from the US in exchange for hundreds of Israeli-held terrorists and a construction freeze in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
"We aren't in favor of breaking up the government. We didn't interrupt when the Israeli government decided to go to peace talks with the Palestinians, we just said the question is what are the contents of the talks," recalled Ariel.
"Now we've reached the point that we can't abide by the serious damage to Israel's sovereignty in two respects; one in that the Palestinian Authority (PA) is influencing legal matters in the state of Israel and demanding the release of Israeli terrorist murderers, and the second respect being the Palestinians going unilaterally to the UN," added the minister.
Regarding the first point, Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett remarked last Thursday that if Arab terrorists with Israeli citizenship were released, his party would resign from the government. As for the second, Ariel referred to the PA's request two weeks ago to join 15 international conventions, requests that have already been accepted by the UN and Switzerland.
Given the talk of resignation, Ariel acknowledged that a "smell of elections is in the air." He added, however, that "the possibility of elections is not desirable, and the prime minister should take responsibility and stop the peace talks."
Collective punishment in Yitzhar will cause extremism
The Samaria town of Yitzhar was witness to clashes between the IDF and a local violent element last week, ending Friday with the IDF occupying the local yeshiva. Ariel responded to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni's accusations that "Yitzhar is Bennett and Ariel."
"What minister Livni says is very serious; Livni as well as Yesh Atid ministers, and all of us government ministers know that those responsible for the peace talk failure is the Palestinians. Livni's attempt to find scapegoats in the government is an unfitting cry-baby attempt, and it stems from Livni's complicated political position," remarked Ariel.
Ariel similarly said last Tuesday that US Secretary of State John Kerry's blaming of the talk failures on Israel was rooted in Israeli ministers' criticism of Israel as the guilty party, hinting at Livni's earlier statements to that effect.
Regarding Yitzhar, Ariel argued Judea and Samaria leadership was not responsible for "price tag" vandalism attacks, saying "the incidents occurring due to a handful of youth are serious and should be opposed by all legal and democratic means."
"At the same time, I say to the Defense Minister (Moshe Ya'alon) and the government, you can't commit collective punishment against residents of Samaria," added Ariel.
Ariel criticized the government's decision to cancel an annual Passover event in Homesh, one of several communities in northern Samaria that were torn down in the 2005 "Disengagement." He further slammed the move by border police last Friday to "occupy the yeshiva in Yitzhar."
"Put the criminals on trial, we're a country with laws, but collective punishment is unjust and undemocratic, and pushes people to extremism," warned the minister.
Talking shop with the construction minister: "buy in 2015"
The housing minister commented on the housing market, saying he anticipates prices to drop in the start of 2015. Israel is currently suffering from a housing crisis, with housing prices having risen by eight percent in the 12 months ending in October 2013.
"We've advanced construction in a meaningful way, there's a 10% rise in marketing to contractors, and also in building starts and completions. Until things effect the market, we are working on a bridging plan for zero VAT (value added tax) with a budget of three billion shekels ($863 million)," added Ariel.
During the course of 2014 housing prices should stop rising according to the minister, and by 2015 he anticipates they will start dropping. "For the moment I've privately advised my children not to buy an apartment and to wait for now," he noted.
"We need to build more in Judea and Samaria," remarked the minister. "Also in Jerusalem we haven't built enough. I will make every effort to build more, we need to build more."
Pollard should be celebrating Passover in Israel
In the previous government, Ariel was chairman of the Lobby to Free Jonathan Pollard; he argues that his desire to free Pollard, now in his 29th year in an American cell, is not put into compromise by his opposition to the proposed deal to free him for terrorists.
"I haven't met Pollard, and for many years, included recently, I try to advance his release," noted Ariel. "Unfortunately the Americans are using Pollard like a national trump card, and that isn't appropriate."
Pollard waived a parole hearing two weeks ago to protest the reported deal that would free him in exchange for terrorists, given his opposition to their freedom.
Ariel noted that the dilemma proposed by the reported deal "is not great, because Jonathan also thinks that it isn't right and opposes the release of terrorists as a condition of his release."
"I understand the human and family perspective, but we're looking on it as a country. In the end, Jonathan should be freed and be free to celebrate Passover in the land of Israel with the people of Israel," concluded Ariel.