Barak to IDF: Issue the order to freeze settlement construction
AG tells cabinet: Israel has just 14 building inspectors in West Bank, making enforcement impossible.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces on Thursday to issue an injunction to temporarily freeze the construction of housing projects in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in accordance with the cabinet's decision to that effect on Wednesday.
The injunction will be signed by Major General Avi Mizrahi, commander of IDF army headquarters.
In a closed session held at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on Thursday, Barak remarked on the cabinet's decision to freeze construction, saying "this is a unilateral step, initiated by the government in coordination with the United States, taken in efforts to advance the peace process with the Palestinians.
This decision places the extremely important task of enforcement on the IDF, the police force, the Shin Bet security service and the Civil Administration."
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz told the security cabinet Wednesday ahead of a vote on the decision that there is no real way to enforce the freeze due to a lack of manpower. The implementation of Israel's decision to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank for 10 months is seen as an especially major challenge for Israel.
The security cabinet voted to impose the partial 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements, which will not apply to East Jerusalem. Netanyahu called the partial freeze a bid to restart stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
"I hope that this decision will help launch meaningful negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that will finally end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians," Netanyahu said at a press conference he held shortly after the security cabinet approved the moratorium.
"In the whole of Judea and Samaria [West Bank], there are just 14 building inspectors," Mazuz told the cabinet. "If this doesn't change it will be difficult for the inspectors to implement the decision."
In light of Mazuz' warning, the cabinet authorized Barak, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich, the Justice Ministry and the Finance Ministry to provide a supplementary budget and extra manpower for the enforcement of the settlement freeze. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, who backed the decision, was asked to present a budget proposal within three days.
According to the cabinet decision, the next stage will be for Barak to issue a directive detailing the new construction policy for the West Bank.
The directive will explain that there will be no new permits for construction in the settlements; building permits issued before the freeze will be suspended; and no construction will be carried out, including on infrastructure and laying of foundations.
The construction of 3,000 new housing units in the settlements will continue unabated, as will construction of public facilities like synagogues and schools.