Stealth Freeze On Building in Yehudah and Shomron

YERUSHALAYIM -

Haaretz: Netanyahu Promised Kerry Best Behavior 

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu allegedly promised Secretary of State John Kerry that he would put a moratorium on new building initiatives in Yehudah and Shomron and eastern Yerushalayim, as a gesture to encourage the Palestinians to return to peace talks.

Quoting unidentified senior officials, Haaretz said Netanyahu agreed to refrain publishing new tenders until mid-June.

Netanyahu has issued instructions to Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) to freeze new projects in Yehudah and Shomron, which would mean delaying the construction of hundreds of homes, Army Radio reported on Tuesday morning.

Ariel refused to confirm or deny the report, and there was also a no comment from Netanyahu’s office.

“I am not commenting. A minister sits with his prime minister. If they want to go public, they have ways to go public. If they want for it stay between them, it will stay between them,” Ariel said over Army Radio on Tuesday.

Speaking with Haaretz, a senior U.S. administration official also declined to confirm that Netanyahu committed himself to “rein in” construction.

But he did observe that “since the Obama visit there are no new announcements and everything is quiet on the ground. Everyone is on their best behavior and don’t want to be blamed for preventing the peace talks from being re-launched.”

The Yesha Council official Yigal Dilmoni said Netanyahu’s office confirmed to him that the prime minister has stopped approving housing tenders.

“This does not help anything, and it is discriminatory,” Dilmoni said. “We are [absolutely] against this.”

The left-wing Peace Now, which opposes a Jewish presence in Yehudah and Shomron, told Reuters that their data reflects a stoppage, but that it was premature to call it a formal policy of freezing construction in Yehudah and Shomron.

Peace Now did, however, say in a statement: “It seems that Netanyahu took it upon himself to follow a policy of restraint.”

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said the U.S. is exerting efforts to “create the needed atmosphere” for new talks, but that he was unaware of any Israeli construction freeze.

“We should hear this officially from the Israeli government,” he told The Associated Press.