Anti-Freeze Voices in Government

Cabinet ministers who voted for the freeze on Jewish construction, a Knesset subcommittee, and coalition MKs agree: The freeze has gone too far.

Hillel Fendel , | updated: 12:28 PM

MK Elkin
MK Elkin
Israel news photo

Cabinet ministers who voted for the freeze on Jewish construction, a Knesset subcommittee, and coalition MKs agree: The freeze has gone too far.

Finance Minister Steinitz
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz of the Likud, who voted in favor of the construction freeze in the mini-security cabinet last week, is singing a different tune this morning. “"If the Palestinian Authority continues with its hostility and aggression towards Israel,” he told Voice of Israel Radio, “instead of responding to Israel’s outstretched hand, then the government will convene soon and reconsider the freeze." Though the statement was replete with conditions, qualifications and non-concrete commitments, it could signify a slowdown in the approach the government has taken thus far regarding the freeze.

Knesset Subcommittee
In addition, the Knesset Subcommittee for Judea and Samaria Affairs - under the auspices of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee - resolved this morning that the Defense Minister must immediately suspend the construction freeze. Chairman MK Zev Elkin (Likud) explained: “The freeze orders were implemented in opposition to the manner stipulated by the Cabinet decision, and were not publicized beforehand as they were supposed to have been. The orders also do not provide any respite for those who are losing money because of the freeze. We therefore demand that the freeze be revoked, formulated properly, provide for compensation, and only afterwards can it be enforced.”

MK Eldad
Committee member MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) was more biting: “The Defense Minister, who likes to speak about law enforcement, himself totally disregards the law. He causes the IDF Central Commander to sign an order in opposition to the Cabinet decision – which stated that it takes effect only after it is publicized – and this has yet to be done.  In addition, he is in violation of Knesset laws. He instructed his representatives not to appear at our committee session – which he may do only if he himself appears in their stead. This he did not do, and I plan to present legislation stipulating that in such a case, he should be forcibly brought to the Knesset just like any other lawbreaker.”

Ministers Begin and Yaalon
Furthermore, Cabinet Ministers Moshe Yaalon and Benny Begin – Likud hawks who voted in favor of the freeze – said on Wednesday that the freeze is being implemented in a “draconian” manner. They noted that the freeze was only supposed to apply to construction that has not yet begun, whereas in fact, the Defense Ministry has issued stop-work orders to some 2,000 units that have already been started or approved. Yaalon and Begin asked Netanyahu to ensure that Defense Minister Barak “calms down” in his rush to enforce the orders.

MKs from UTJ
MK Menachem Eliezer Moses of the government coalition's United Torah Judaism party, opposes the freeze for both political and economic reasons. Speaking in the Knesset on Wednesday, he said, “Whoever thinks that after ten months of a freeze, all of sudden they’ll start building again, is mistaken. This is the salami method – first one slice, then another, etc.”

Moses also explained the economic ramifications of the freeze: “Innocent citizens who purchased apartments on paper, or land, and took out a mortgage to do so, now find themselves unable to proceed. So for an additional ten months they’ll have to pay double: rent and mortgage. Why are they at fault? Did they buy illegally? They all paid good money so that they can live in a home, and now they have to suffer? And what about all the suppliers, and subcontractors, and advisors, and architects, and everyone else – what will happen to them? And what about a family with 10 children that wants to expand its 3-room apartment  - they’re stuck? And what about the banks that finance these projects – when they see that the government zig-zags like this and decides on a Disengagement from construction, they will simply decide to pull out of these projects.”

MK Moses and his party colleague Uri Makleb have proposed legislation that will provide compensation for all direct or indirect damages caused by the construction freeze.