Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is weighing a “semi-secret,” partial construction freeze in Judea and Samaria, according to political sources. The prime minister is searching for a way to appease both Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who insists that Jews be prohibited to build homes in Judea and Samaria, and his constituents, who were promised that the freeze would end in September.
Sources close to Netanyahu say the prime minister is likely to announce his official strategy for dealing with the dilemma at the last minute, just before the construction freeze ends on September 26.
Netanyahu and Abbas are set to begin direct negotiations on September 2. Abbas has threatened to pull out of talks if Jews are allowed to resume building in Judea and Samaria.
The “mini-freeze” option would involve allowing construction in major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria, while prohibiting new building projects in smaller towns. However, the small town construction freeze may be a “quiet freeze,” officially enacted but never formally announced, in an attempt to maintain ties with groups opposing the freeze.
Abbas has demanded a full construction freeze not only in Judea and Samaria, but in much of Jerusalem as well, saying that all territory east of the 1949 armistice line is “occupied” by Israel and should be given to the PA for the creation of a new Arab state. Netanyahu is unlikely to give in to the PA demands, which are widely opposed by members of both his ruling coalition and the opposition parties in Knesset.