Joe Biden
Joe BidenReuters

A senior settlement leader has accused Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz of cutting a deal with the Biden administration to block Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman said Gantz had already begun to impose the de facto building freeze in Judea and Samaria.

“Benny Gantz has made a deal with the Biden administration to freeze construction in Judea and Samaria and is already implementing the move in practice," said Ne'eman.

“This move crosses one of the strongest red lines amongst the national camp.”

For the past five months the Council of Higher Planning has not met to discuss construction plans in Judea and Samaria. It is Defense Minister Benny Gantz who is preventing the committee from meeting.

“Over the past several weeks the authorities in Judea and Samaria along with the Yesha Council made a humble appeal to Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Gantz to hold a “small” committee meeting, not for major planning but in order to deal with small changes to existing master plans. However our request was completely rejected by Benny Gantz."

“The same Benny Gantz who frequently accuses Netanyahu of deceitful politics is pursuing an independent policy without the prime minister’s knowledge. It turns out that Gantz agreed to a construction freeze with the Biden Administration, even though the new government hasn’t even been formed.”

Ne’eman urged Yamina chief Naftali Bennett and New Hope chairman Gideon Sa’ar not to form a unity government, which Ne'eman argued would empower Gantz to pursue the settlement freeze.

“Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa'ar, did you think you would run the country? You promised to adhere to ideological red lines of the national camp in the government that is currently being formed. Just know that your defense minister thinks differently and is acting differently. Benny Gantz claims - behind closed doors that he, and only he will be at the head of the political echelons when it comes to what happens in Judea and Samaria. Gantz has already made a deal with the administration in Washington behind the back of the prime minister to implement an Obama-style freeze, which at the time was unprecedented.”

“Neither Bennett nor anyone else will be the liaison with the Americans on construction in Judea and Samaria, only I will decide on policy there.”

“These are his words, and this is how Gantz has been acting for the last several months. To the parties on the right and to the New Hope Party you should know that this move crosses one of the strongest red lines amongst the national camp. You are forming a government that is slated to abuse the Judea and Samaria enterprise, including half a million Israelis living there! You were wrong! But it’s not too late to fix it. Stand at the head of your camp, the national camp. Stand by your principles for the next four and a half years. It is completely in your hands, if you still believe in those principles of course.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the Blue and White party signed a coalition deal with Yesh Atid.

Under the agreement, Benny Gantz will retain the Defense Ministry in the new government.