Report: Building Freeze Back On, At Least Through 2018

YERUSHALAYIM -
Workers building at a construction site for new neighborhood in the community of Efrat, January 26. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Just a day after reports said that the government would build some 6,000 housing units in areas of Yerushalayim liberated in the 1967 Six Day War, Makor Rishon reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has decided that no new building would be announced or authorized at least through the end of 2017. The report, based on sources close to Netanyahu, is based on conversations he has had in recent weeks with heads of communities in Yehudah and Shomron, and is what the Prime Minister intends to do, despite his denials of a building freeze to ministers.

The reason for the mini-freeze: To give American negotiators a chance to move forward talks with the Palestinians. According to the sources, the freeze was not Netanyahu’s idea, but Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s, who gave his word that a freeze would be implemented to members of the administration of President Donald Trump.

Faced with a fait accompli, Netanyahu feels he has no choice but to go with Liberman’s plan. Sources in Liberman’s office, meanwhile, vehemently denied the report, saying that the Defense Minister said no such thing, and that it was apparent that “someone is trying to profit politically at his expense.”

The issue of construction in Yehudah and Shomron is coming to a head. Government sources said that the next meeting of the Security Cabinet, set for Sunday, has been canceled – as was the last one, which was supposed to take place Wednesday. According to the sources, the reason for the cancellations is Netanyahu’s desire to head off an open fight over the Kalkilya building scheme that has been under discussion. According to the plan, the size and population of the Arab city is set to nearly double.

The plan has greatly angered not only rightwing MKs and ministers in Jewish Home, but in the Likud itself, and if the plan comes up for a new vote – as Netanyahu has promised it would – it would be handily defeated. However the government sources told Makor Rishon, Liberman, who authored the plan, would take great offense at the cancellation of the plan by the Cabinet. Liberman will not agree to such a move, and there is a great chance that a political crisis would develop. Liberman has said that any minister who is opposed to the plan is being hypocritical, as its details were discussed and approved over a half a year ago.