Photo Credit: Marc Israel Sellem / POOL
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads weekly cabinet meeting, March 16 2017

The days before this week’s special cabinet meeting which decided the new policy regarding new construction in the Judea and Samaria settlements were fraught with hectic maneuvering behind the scenes – not about the fate of Israel’s public broadcasting as it appears at the moment, but about the right-wing ultimatum that was delivered to the PM, Makor Rishon reported Friday.

The message to Netanyahu, from the Habayit Hayehudi but also from his own, rightwing ministers, was that they would walk should a decision be reached whereby new construction is limited to the settlement blocks, while elsewhere in Judea and Samaria construction is frozen.


“We made it clear that any approval of a freeze, including outside the blocks, is a red line for us and we would not continue to sit in the government in such a case,” a senior Habayit Hayehudi minister (there are three) told Makor Rishon.

This would have spelled an end to the Likud-led Netanyahu government, a fact the PM obviously understood well. If in the past he had actually been yearning for his Naftali Bennett-led coalition partners to leave on their own, so that he could replace them with Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Camp – today this solution is out of the question. Herzog is fighting for his political life in his party, and the ministers threatening the future of the current coalition were Netanyahu’s own Likudniks.

The version of the same events from Netanyahu’s circle is dramatically different, according to the same Makor Rishon report. Apparantly, Netanyahu has long since decided not to divide the settlement blocks and the rest of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. The fact is, the PM kept his word regarding rebuilding Amona at a new location, and said location is outside the blocks.

The core of the disagreement at this point is over contradictory interpretations of President Trump’s real expectations in terms of Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria. Netanyahu suggests Trump wants as little building as possible while his envoys are persuading Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to return to the peace negotiations. Netanyahu’s right flank believes Trump couldn’t care less, and the fact is that the US President clearly said he didn’t care what solution brings peace: one state, two states, it’s all the same to him.

Habayit Hayehudi at this point is expecting the PM to live up to his word, which means that within the next three months (some want a shorter deadline) construction must start, with reliable application of the plans drawn by the Supreme Planning Council in Judea and Samaria some two months ago. If that does not happen – the ultimatum would be delivered again.


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