Netanyahu Admits to Freezing Construction
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyau reportedly met with the heads of Judea and Samaria authorities and admitted to freezing construction in the region, due to pressure from the American administration.
In the night-time meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, whose details were reported on Friday by journalist Ariel Kahane of Makor Rishon, nearly all the leaders of the regional councils were present, as well as Dani Dayan, Chief Foreign Envoy of the Council of Judea and Samaria, and Ze'ev Haver, the chaiman of the Amana housing organization.
Netanyahu acknowledged that American demands led to the cancellation of high planning council meetings of the IDF's civil administration that manages the Judea and Samaria region.
The prime minister reportedly requested that the Housing Ministry freeze new construction projects in Judea and Samaria earlier in the month, despite the collapse of peace talks, and despite the fact that he chose to release jailed terrorists instead of freezing building as a condition of the talks.
In the meeting the prime minister did not deny having giving the order to freeze construction, but claimed to the representatives of Judea and Samaria residents that he wasn't aware of the results of his actions on the region.
"Defender of the settlements"
Nevertheless, Netanyahu reportedly termed himself "the defender of the settlements" in the meeting, claiming to have blocked strong international pressure against a Jewish presence in the region.
US President Barack Obama's administration demanded "not one brick, not one house" in Judea and Samaria according to Netanyahu, a demand the prime minister said he was able to hold off.
In recent meetings with the American administration, Netanyahu reports being told to stop not only the publication of construction bids, but also the early stages of planning. While Netanyahu did not say directly, he hinted to having acceded based on his approach of maintaining a high level of cooperation with the Obama administration.
"Not even a lightpole can be built"
The Judea and Samaria regional leaders who met with Netanyahu leveled sharp criticism over the decision to stop the high planning council meetings, a move they said led to a de facto freeze of the region's development given that without the council's order, even "a lightpole for a soldier guarding at a post can't be placed."
They added that not even educational facilities can be built under the current status, which wasn't the case in the freeze four years ago that Netanyahu initiated.
"Every change on the ground, even the smallest, requires the permission of the outline plan anew. If the council doesn't meet, even the tiniest changes can't get permission. That doesn't allow preparation for the next school year or anything else," one of the regional leaders said at the meeting.
Another leader added that without building, the local authorities don't receive any construction fees, which greatly harms the budgets of the regional councils.
In response, Netanyahu claimed he wasn't aware of the full impact of his orders to stop the council meetings, and promised to find a solution in the coming days.
The regional leaders pressed that building continue, saying that otherwise the status quo will be of construction freeze with any building becoming a deviation from the norm.
"If this will be the reality, the external pressures will be many times as strong," the leaders stated. After the meeting they met with representatives of Netanyahu's office to brainstorm solutions to the situation.