Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) lashed out Sunday at right-wing MKs after a letter they wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning against a potential settlement freeze, appeared in an ad paid for by a settler umbrella organization.
“I read this morning the ad by MKs and ministers against the peace process and in favor of the continued funding and construction of isolated settlements,” Livni, who is also Israel’s top negotiator in talks with the Palestinian Authority, wrote on her Facebook page. “The advertisement is paid for by the Yesha Council, but the security, political and economic price — we all pay.
“The should decide whether they are servants of the public or the Yesha Council.”
She added in a later post that equating the isolated settlements with the major settlement blocs undermines efforts to ensure that those major blocs remain part of sovereign Israel in a future peace agreement.
Netanyahu loyalist Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) also slammed the ad, calling it “populist communication.”
Hebrew newspapers published as an ad on Sunday a letter written to Netanyahu by 21 MKs from the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Jewish Home parties stressing that they would not accept any framework agreement that would prevent Israelis from expanding the Jewish presence in the West Bank. The MKs were reacting to reports that the US was asking that Israel put an unofficial freeze on construction in settlements outside of the major blocs in the event that Israel and the Palestinian Authority sign off on a nonbinding framework deal and continue peace talks past the April deadline.
“These days, we’ve received news of a demand that Israel agree to freeze the construction and planning of settlements in Judea and Samaria,” read the letter, written under the logo of the Knesset’s Land of Israel caucus. “We oppose any kind of freeze, including a settlement freeze outside of recognized blocs, and we would regard any such Israeli commitment as an utterly unacceptable breach.”
The two lead signatures on the letter were those of MKs Yariv Levin (Likud-Beytenu) and Orit Strock (Jewish Home).
Levin told Army Radio that he would quit as coalition chairman and head of the Likud’s Knesset faction if Netanyahu froze settlement building anywhere, and warned that he and like-minded colleagues would not cooperate with government on other legislation if a freeze was introduced, essentially paralyzing the coalition. He noted ominously that the government has no Knesset majority without his group of strong settlement supporters. He added that he did not anticipate Netanyahu agreeing to any kind of settlement freeze, however.
Also on Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation was set to discuss a bill that would establish evacuation and compensation regulations for settlers who voluntarily relocate from the West Bank to sovereign Israel.
After compensating the homeowners, the state would retain possession of the evacuated houses, but would not use them, according to the bill sponsored by Meretz MK Ilan Gilon, who said the bill would save the state a significant sum.
“I expect all of the ministers who support a [two-state solution] to vote for this bill,” Gilon said, according to Maariv. “This move wins support especially among settlers. Many who sought the welfare state that exists only beyond the Green Line found themselves on the other side of the security fence. They are disillusioned by the lies of the settlement enterprise, disconnected from any ideology and are just waiting for an opportunity to leave.
“There is no doubt that evacuation today will save money in the future, and the time has come to set the settlers free from the settlements and the settlements from the settlers.”
Gilon added that the bill would greatly benefit settlers whose homes are located outside of the security fence route and are forced to stay at great personal risk and cost because their homes no longer have value.