Angered at 'De Facto' Freeze in Settlement Construction, Netanyahu Meets Israeli Settler Leaders

Netanyahu made no promises to push forward with any significant amount of new construction in meeting with West Bank council leaders, but urged political sensitivity

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a public appearance on Tuesday, May 6, 2017
Gil Eliyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with West Bank local settler leaders after a few of them criticized him for what they called an "de facto freeze" of settlement construction in the West Bank.

Sources who participated in the discussion between Netanyahu and the West Bank Bank regional council heads described it as a "an anger management workshop," and said that Netanyahu didn't really promise anything to the settler leaders.

According to one source who participated in the conversation, the local leaders laid out infrastructure problems facing the West Bank, including those tied to water and transport. Netanyahu listened but didn't give any concrete promises. The council heads protested to Netanyahu that the planning committee approved a plan this week to move forward with plans for just 2,000 housing units despite their expectations for a much larger number.

Two participants in the discussion said Netanyahu made no promises to push forward with any significant amount of new construction and said that he intends to stick by cabinet decisions on the issue while highlighting the political sensitivity of construction in the Palestinian territories.

One source said that none of the council heads expected to get any news during their meeting. According to the source, Netanyahu holds similar type meetings when he needs calm political tensions and only offers general promises, if at all. He added that under the Obama administration these meetings did not lead to any actual action.

However, the participants in the conversation sounded calm and temperate in comparison to the voices sounded after a meeting last weekend when some of them called "to consider finding another prime ministerial candidate." In the public messages published by the council heads earlier this week, they used relatively moderate language.

According to Shomron Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who called to support a new candidate for prime minister at a meeting last week, "The meeting was mostly relaxed. I met beforehand with the prime minister and a few council heads in private. This is already the third meeting in the past 24 hours and I believe there's no doubt the prime minister is showing a positive spirit."

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Naaman said, "It can't be that there is no construction in Gush Etzion. I understand there's international pressure but the prime minister's obligation is to Israeli interests and to our young couples."

Beit Aria Regional Council head Avi Naim added that, "It was a good meeting the prime minister and we are grateful to him for the meeting. The test is the test of action and we expect a drastic change in policy."

Meanwhile, in a meeting held Wednesday, the Subcommittee on Settlements in the Planning Committee approved a few more plans in the territories. In total, 300 housing units were approved at sites including Pnei Haver, Susiya, Adura and Givat Ze'ev. These housing units join a few hundred others whose plans moved forward two days ago.