U S Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their working dinner in Jerusalem on March 23 2013 (Photo: US State Department)
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has frozen settlement construction tenders under a promise he made to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israel’s Army Radio reported Tuesday. Netanyahu is denying the report, but other Israeli politicians are steamed; Israeli’s new Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, from Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party said his party would oppose any government budget without settlement expansion included.
This should be interesting. Haaretz: Netanyahu promised Kerry to ‘rein in’ settlement construction until mid-June
Netanyahu insisted he has not issued an order to freeze construction in the settlements or in East Jerusalem. The prime minister stressed that the tenders are soon to be released, crediting the delay to a “technical malfunction and an error in the tenders’ wording.”
…….Knesset Member Ariel Atias (Shas), the former housing minister, went as far as to claim that, in effect, a construction moratorium has been imposed on Jerusalem.
“A sweeping order has been issued by the prime minister and National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, putting all construction matters in Jerusalem on hold,” he said.
In his meeting with Netanyahu [after Obama's visit in March], Kerry did not request a settlement construction freeze, but asked that Israel “restrain” construction. Senior Israeli officials say Netanyahu agreed to wait 8-12 weeks – until mid-June – and refrain from publishing new settlement construction tenders.
A senior U.S. administration official declined to confirm reports that Netanyahu committed to “rein in” construction, yet said that the reason there is no new construction has to do with facts on the ground: “The fact is that since Obama’s visit there are no new announcements and everything is quiet on the ground when it comes to settlement construction,” he said. “Everyone is on their best behavior and don’t want to be blamed for preventing the peace talks from being re-launched.”
Times of Israel: Netanyahu reportedly freezes new settlement construction
Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel … was given the instruction to delay new West Bank construction projects…Ariel refused to comment on the report in an interview Tuesday morning, confirming only that he was set to meet with Netanyahu upon the prime minister’s return from China. Asked by Army Radio about rumors that his Jewish Home party would withdraw support for the budget if a settlement freeze is implemented, Ariel said that he would stick by previous statements he had made on the issue, implying that his party would indeed undermine efforts to pass the budget.
MK Ayelet Shaked, a member of Ariel’s party, seemed to confirm news of the freeze, calling it a “disgrace.”
Israel’s new Housing Minister Uri Ariel
Before reviewing earlier statements referenced last week in the Hebrew press, you should meet Israel’s new Housing Minister, Uri Ariel. Here’s his “Political Plan to End the Conflict” from last year. Palestinians in the West Bank can become citizens of Israel, they just can’t vote in national elections for a few years, “Arabs are in no hurry to exercise their right to vote.” How refreshing–not.
Israeli Housing Minister, Uri Ariel, of the Jewish Home Party, stated that his party will oppose any government budget that does not include budgets for the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements in areas Israel vowed to build in after the Palestinians headed to the United Nations last year.
Israeli Yedioth Aharonoth reported that Ariel held a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss the issue, and stated following the meeting that any budget that does not allow settlement construction would be considered a violation of the coalition agreement between the Jewish Home and the Likud Party of Netanyahu.
On his part, Israeli Finance Minister, Yair Lapid, refused to comment on the statements of Ariel.
Israeli sources reported that Ariel seems to be sending a message for Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, telling them that his party will fight for more budgets for settlements, and that he is also sending a political message to Netanyahu to stress on the importance of settlements amidst U.S. efforts to resume direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
(Hat tip Mondoweiss commenter gingershot)