Netanyahu: There is no Building Freeze

In visit to Gaza region, PM says Hamas 'got the message' and IDF is in control, denies he has been freezing 'settlements.'

Hezki Baruch ,

Binyamin Netanyahu inspects Gaza
Binyamin Netanyahu inspects Gaza
Haim Tzach/GPO

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the IDF's Gaza division on Tuesday afternoon, where he received an update on the status of the army's Southern Command.

Joining Netanyahu was Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud), IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, Netanyahu's military secretary Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, and Gaza Division Commander Brig. Gen. Itai Virov.

Shortly after Netanyahu's visit, Gazans rioted just over the border, forcing the IDF to open fire killing one rioter and wounding five others according to Gaza medics cited by AFP.

At a vantage point looking out over Gaza, Netanyahu said, "I'm impressed at how the situation here is under control. On all these fronts we are managing a policy of calming down the ground in actions against attackers, and against terror forces, in a responsible and measured manner, with force - with lots of force if needed."

"I think it was clarified here to Hamas that we view it as responsible for what happens in the (Gaza) Strip and from the Strip, that we won't allow a breach of our borders or an attack on our territory and our people. I get the impression that this message has been taken in."

When asked by journalists about whether construction in Judea and Samaria is continuing, Netanyahu said, "yes, certainly. I want to tell you that our obligations are clear."

"The international reality has been difficult in the last seven years, very difficult," he continued. "Against the demands not to build even one home we continued to build, there is no freeze, but we did it in a measured and responsible way with understanding, which prevented the threat on the settlement enterprise."

"But at the moment it's a threat, and this threat is a false claim. The false claim is that the wave of recent terror attacks is caused by a wide increase in building in the settlements - that's simply a lie. I pierce this lie, like the lie of executing the boy."

According to the prime minister, "I say things as they are, I manage it with responsibility, with building, amid obligations to the settlements, but also obligations not to allow a struggle, an international siege on us, a decision at the (UN) Security Council against the settlements, including sanctions. That isn't something good, not for the settlements and not for the state of Israel. I'm trying to prevent that."

Despite Netanyahu's statements, he has been accused of instituting an unprecedented covert building freeze in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria since 2013. At that time, he reportedly agreed to release Arab terrorists - and went on to free 78 of them - as a "gesture" for peace talks instead of starting a building freeze, but then proceeded to freeze building as well with no overt international request to do so.

Netanyahu and his coalition government has also been criticized for not adopting the 2012 Levy Report, which proves Israel's presence in the region is legal according to international law, and which was commissioned by Netanyahu.