Story Highlights

  • Settlement freeze set to expire at midnight
  • Rightists planning series of activities to mark end of moratorium
  • Kadima MK urges settlers to refrain from undermining peace talks
Yesha Council head Danny Dayan Tess Scheflan
Yesha settler council head Danny Dayan Photo by Tess Scheflan
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The head of the Yesha Council of West Bank settlements, Danny Dayan, on Sunday hailed the impending end to an Israeli moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements, set to expire at midnight Sunday, branding it  "10 wasted needless months that have caused much grief to many."

Dayan was among several Yesha officials wjho gathered with settler activists atthe sukkah of MK Ze'ev Elkin in the West Bank outpost of Eldad, to mark the end of the moratorium. Israel is facing pressure from its allies, including the United States, to extend the freeze.

"These ten months brought harm to the state," Dayan went on to say. "Anyone who thought that this gesture would strengthen the country can see the kind of pressure that we face today."

"A needless gesture prompts demands for further needless gestures, and we find ourselves going backwards," he added. "I hope that the demands will be rejected and that tenders for constructions will be forthcoming."

"A man approached me at the synagogue and said that he is not being allowed to build, as a Jew, while Arabs right across from him are allowed to build as much as they want," recounted Elkin. "This reality is going to end tonight, and life will return to its proper order. I am glad that we were able to contribute our share, and that the prime minister now prefers to retain his credibility and has not succumbed to international pressure."

Palestinian negotiators have declared repeatedly that they would abandon recently launched direct peace negotiations if Israel resumes construction on land envisioned by the Palestinians as part of a future state. U.S. officials, among them President Barack Obama, have asked Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the moratorium, but so far the prime minister has refused.

The end of the freeze was expected to be marked by a flurry of events, with busloads of Likud activists scheduled to tour different settlements in support of the settlers, and hear stories of the damage incurred by the freeze. At 3 P.M., a cornerstone for a new daycare center was to be laid in Kiryat Netafim, and at 4 P.M. thousands of settlers were expected at a rally in Revava, to be attended by MKs and municipality heads.

MK Danny Danon (Likud) said that construction was likely to begin on some 2,000 housing units across the West Bank.

"Building only a few hundred houses under these circumstances would be little cause to rejoice," MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union) said Saturday, adding that "Netanyahu is putting the right to sleep and, while ending the freeze on paper, he is really busy destroying the settlement of Judea and Samaria in practice."

MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima), himself a resident of a settlement, urged settlers to refrain from turning the resumption of the construction into an act that would undermine peace talks with the Palestinians, and the important relationship between Israel and the U.S.

"We, as settlers and partners in the Zionist enterprise, must remember that the peace process and the maintenance of a supportive atmosphere in Israel is an existential Zionist interest of the first degree," Schneller said. "That is why we must refrain from displaying defiance in raising the construction flag."