Netanyahu: Settlement Freeze Is 'One-time, Temporary' Move

PM vows Israel will build again in West Bank when freeze ends; Settlers block inspectors enforcing freeze.

Haaretz Service
Chaim Levinson
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Haaretz Service
Chaim Levinson

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that a 10-month freeze of new construction in West Bank settlements was only a "one-time, temporary" move, in an apparent bid to ease settlers' fears.

"We shall resume building once the moratorium is over," Netanyahu told a conference organized by the financial newspaper Calcalist.

"The future final-status accord in Judea and Samaria will be determined at the end of negotiations - and not a day earlier," he said.

Netanyahu also urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yet again to resume negotiations suspended since last December, saying the Palestinians "need this peace no less than we do."

Abbas has demanded a complete settlement freeze before talks may resume and has rejected Israel's current move as insufficient.

The prime minister's comments came after Defense Ministry inspectors who came to the West Bank on Tuesday to enforce the moratorium found the roads blocked by settlers, who have vowed to defy the government crackdown.

Settlers fanned out across the West Bank, from Karnei Shomron in the northern territory to Kiryat Arba in the south, shouting at the inspectors and refused to let them pass.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was visiting the West Bank on Tuesday, reiterated that the government intended to enforce the freeze completely

"The cabinet's decision will be carried out and enforced fully," Barak said. "On the other hand, it will be carried out in a way that ensures as much dialogue as possible with residents."

"The settler leadership in Judea and Samaria is responsible, patriotic and Zionist, and has faces many challenges," added the defense minister. "I believe and hope that it can face up to this challenge as well, as we carry out the decision of the government."

Earlier Tuesday, settlers pledged to stage protests in front of the home of a senior Shin Bet official if the security agency takes part in the government's efforts to freeze construction in the disputed territory.

The official in question, A., is the head of the Shin Bet's Makhlaka Hayehudit ("The Jewish Division"), which is tasked with monitoring the activities of the extreme right wing in the West Bank.

A. resides in a tiny settlement in the West Bank. Military censorship laws do not permit media outlets to publish A.'s full name and place of residence, though this information is common knowledge among wide swaths of the settler population in the territories.

In the coming days, right-wing activists plan on pinpointing the exact location of A.'s home in preparation for future protests. A.'s predecessor as head of the Shin Bet's "Jewish Division" is also a West Bank settler. Protesters staged demonstrations near his home to protest the holding conditions for right-wing detainees.

Despite the settlers' warnings, defense officials said Tuesday that the Shin Bet will devote resources to help the government implement a building freeze in Israeli settlements.

Though it remains unclear what exact role the Shin Bet will play, the agency has thus far gathered intelligence on settler plans to violate the government order to halt construction in the West Bank as well as attempts to physically harm top defense officials involved in carrying out orders to that effect.

The Shin Bet has been intensively involved in collecting intelligence on plans by rightists to target legal and military officials charged with enforcing law and order in the Palestinian territories, including Shai Nitzan of the State Prosecutor's Office and Brigadier-General Noam Tibon, the IDF's former commander of its forces in the West Bank.



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