The specter of a West Bank settlement freeze is raising serious concerns among prominent Knesset members on the right, several of whom warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that halting construction in any Jewish town or city beyond the Green Line would be “totally and utterly unacceptable.”
In an official letter sent to Netanyahu, 21 MKs from the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu and Jewish Home parties stressed that they would not accept any framework agreement that would prevent Israelis from expanding the Jewish presence in the West Bank.
“These days, we’ve received news of a demand from Israel to agree to freeze the construction and planning of settlements in Judea and Samaria,” the letter read. “We oppose any kind of freeze, including a settlement freeze outside of recognized blocs, and we will see any such Israeli commitment as utterly unacceptable.”
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud), one of the MKs to sign the letter, said any attempt by US officials to impose a freeze on settlements would be heavily opposed by Israel’s right wing, and argued that Jews had a moral right to reside in any part of the West Bank.
“American pressure to press a sword to the neck of the settlements will be met with total resistance,” Levin said. “It is our right and our duty to settle and build in all historical parts of the Land of Israel, and we stand firm on this right.”
Israel’s Army Radio reported Wednesday that the Obama administration has asked Israel to impose an unofficial settlement freeze outside of major settlements blocs if a framework agreement is agreed upon. Netanyahu’s office did not comment on the report. But he has said in the past that a freeze he approved for 10 months from November 2009 was a one-time gesture.
Ministers and members of Knesset from the right are expected to participate in a march to the Jordan Valley on Friday, in order to express their opposition to final-status security arrangements that would call for the removal of Israeli forces or settlements from the area in the future.
Earlier this month, thousands of demonstrators took part in a march to the controversial E1 corridor, linking Jerusalem with Ma’ale Adumim to the east, in order to voice their opposition to the ongoing US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
In November, Netanyahu ordered a pullback of Housing Ministry plans to construct some 20,000 settlement units — an unprecedented number — including 1,200 homes in the E1 corridor.
He had said the move to push forward tens of thousands of new units over the Green Line was a “meaningless step” that would create pointless tension with the international community.
According to Housing Ministry statistics published in November, 7 percent of new Israeli construction sites erected this year were located in the West Bank, and the number of building projects across the Green Line rose by nearly 130% compared to 2012.