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Israeli right denounces reported settlement freeze, promised by Netanyahu to Kerry

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U S  Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their working dinner in Jerusalem on March 23 2013 State Department Photo 1
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.”

uri ariel
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.

IMEMC: Israeli Housing Minister: “We Will Oppose Any Budget That Does Not Include Settlements”

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)

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is a mom, a human rights activist, and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area and likes to garden. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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17 Responses

  1. James Canning on May 7, 2013, 7:41 pm

    Kerry should be pressing Israel to freeze all growth of the illegal colonies in the West Bank, and Golan Heights for that matter.

  2. Mike_Konrad on May 7, 2013, 9:18 pm

    I know this is off topic, but Uri Ariel has the face of a gangster from the 1950s. Put a fedora on him and a black shirt with white tie, and call him “Bugsy” Ariel.

    I know it if off topic, but that pic looks like a mugshot.

    I’d hate to meet him in a dark alley.

  3. Shingo on May 7, 2013, 10:03 pm

    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.”

    To be perfectly honest, this seems like the most humane and generous suggestion to date. Certainly beats occupation.

    It’s interesting that the right are in some ways less racist than the liberal Zionist class. Max Blumenthal pointed out on the Scott Hirtin Show, that he found the religious right to be less concerned with maintaining segregation and apartheid.

  4. annie on May 7, 2013, 10:31 pm

    shingo, yes it could be worse. it would involve the loyalty oath and:

    (my embeds)

    When election regions are created, it is necessary to separate Judea and Samaria into several election regions, For example: Jenin will be combined with the Afula region, Nablus will be added to the Gush Dan region, Ramallah will be combined with the Greater Jerusalem region, etc. In this way, a democratic, Jewish majority will be maintained in the Knesset.

    what i find most interesting about this latest move tho is the threat to hold up the budget if they can’t start building. it reminds me of Lapid/Bennett forcing netanyahu’s hand forming the government. i wonder if the jewish home party has this much persuasion/power in the knesset. either way, the budget is an annual event (or biannual). everything else is way down the road. that means a demand to build build build now. not sure how that will fly w/palestinians and the UN. it’s interesting.

  5. talknic on May 7, 2013, 11:05 pm

    Uri Ariel wants Israel to break International Law. AMAZING! Israelis keep putting these criminal types in power

    • john h on May 8, 2013, 5:31 am

      What’s amazing about that? Israelis in power have not just wanted to, they have broken international law as a matter of course for decades. What would be amazing would be if he, or similar, showed respect for international law and didn’t want to break it.

    • W.Jones on May 8, 2013, 10:19 pm

      After the war, Bernadotte was unanimously chosen to be the United Nations Security Council mediator in the Arab–Israeli conflict of 1947–1948… The decision to assassinate him had been taken by… Yitzhak Shamir, who later became Prime Minister of Israel.

      • James Canning on May 9, 2013, 2:42 pm

        Great post, W.Jones. And a number of terrorists were high-level leaders of independent Israel.

  6. CloakAndDagger on May 8, 2013, 4:13 am

    As I had posted earlier, China is becoming a more prominent player in world diplomacy.

    According to VT, it was China’s pressure on Netanyahu rather than of the US that led to the settlement freeze (emphasis mine):

    Israel’s Export Imperative

    Netanyahu was in China hoping to increase exports to the world’s second largest economy. Given that 40% of Israel’s GDP is based on exports, Bibi is keen for trade with China(Israel’s number 3 trading partner) to reach $10 billion over the next three years. While also interested in increasing exports, Abbas is more interested in economic aid China has offered, as well the likelihood their intervention could shift the stalemated peace process.

    China’s new president Xi Jinping has issued a four point proposal for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to a statement issued by Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying: “The immediate priority is to take credible steps to stop settlement activities, end violence against innocent civilians and lift the blockade of the Gaza Strip in order to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks,”

    She added that China is firmly opposed to Israel’s settlement construction in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel and that this places the primary obligation on Israel to remove the barriers for peace talks.

    Bibi Gets the Message

    Netanyahu seems to have got the message. Scarcely twelve hours later, Reuters was citing an Israeli Army Radio report that Netanyahu had frozen tenders for settlements in the West Bank. Given Netanyahu’s prior aggressive pro-settlement position, this is a historic concession. Reuter minimizes (in fact they omit it entirely) the role China played in prompting it. Typically the corporate media has buried the story with belligerent allegations about Chinese involvement in cyber espionage to steal US military and industrial secrets.
    Abbas left China without agreeing to meet with Netanyahu. The Palestinian president stipulates Israel must accept 1967 Palestinian borders before he agrees to resume peace talks.

    • James Canning on May 8, 2013, 2:16 pm

      Great post, Cloak. And bravo, China. Object should be to stop all growth of illegal colonies in West Bank and Golan Heights.

    • W.Jones on May 8, 2013, 10:25 pm

      China=”Israel’s number 3 trading partner”
      I read that something like 53% of trade is with Europe.
      Tons of immigrants are from the F.S.U., including oligarchs.
      The US openly donates what now, 4 Billion a year due to Obama?
      Turkey and the Saudis are major partners, as in Syria.
      The M.B. is flooding Gazan tunnels with sewage.
      Everyone has a hand in this now apparently.

      Oh look, Yours Truly,
      We’re in the middle of the
      Chiliastic poem.

  7. Citizen on May 8, 2013, 6:20 am

    U.S. Policy on Israeli Settlements (Taken Question)

    Taken Question
    Office of the Spokesperson
    Washington, DC

    Question Taken at the June 16, 2011 Daily Press Briefing
    June 16, 2011

    Q: What is the current U. S. policy on Israeli settlements?

    A: The position of the United States on Israeli settlements has not changed and will not change. Like every American administration for decades, we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. President Obama’s recent speech offered our views on the way forward.

    • James Canning on May 8, 2013, 2:24 pm

      Great post, Kathleen. The settlements are illegal, FULL STOP. In Golan Heights and in West Bank.

  8. seafoid on May 8, 2013, 6:28 am

    Israel is running a budget deficit- Lapid wanted to increase this to 4.9% of GDP but had to settle for 4.65% .

    Very high . Israel simply does not have the money to expand YESHA.

  9. on May 8, 2013, 9:52 pm

    Look at that. I can see his hand behind his back with all his fingers crossed.

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