Lapid balks at funding settlements, halting high-level meet

Finance minister storms out of parley with Netanyahu, says time is not right to build in Jerusalem

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset, October 27, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Finance Minister Yair Lapid at the Knesset, October 27, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Finance Minister Yair Lapid balked at voting to transfer funds to settlements in the West Bank Wednesday, breaking up a ministerial meeting attending by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lapid argued that the time was not right for building outside of settlement blocs in the West Bank and that the cash would be put to better use in supporting Israeli towns within the 1967 lines.

“I won’t facilitate money being transferred to isolated settlements which needs to go Kiryat Shmona in the north and Beersheba in the south, especially at this time when it causes real harm to Israel,” he said. “I support building in Jerusalem — it’s our capital city — and we will support the improvement of infrastructure in the major settlement blocs as part of the natural growth, but as with everything there is a matter of timing.”

Netanyahu and Lapid met with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, and Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel at the Prime Minister’s Bureau to discuss improving infrastructure in the West Bank.

On Monday, Netanyahu’s office announced he had given the go ahead for the building of 12 new roads in the West Bank, along with planning for 1,000 new homes in East Jerusalem.

The announcement drew international ire, further fraying ties between Jerusalem and the West.

Commenting on a Tuesday report in The Atlantic that described relations between the US and Israel as a “full-blown crisis,” and which quoted an unnamed senior Obama administration source branding Netanyahu “a chickenshit,” Lapid called for officials to deal with the rift “responsibly.”

“There is no one in Israel who enjoys hearing comments of that sort about the prime minister,” Lapid said. “I said only a few days ago that there is a real crisis in the relations and it needs to be dealt with responsibly. Senior officials at the White House and in our government need to tackle the crisis behind the scenes because the relations between the two countries are of strategic importance and based upon a deep friendship.”

Diplomatic rhetoric between Jerusalem and Washington has heated up in recent days as the US used strong terms to condemn Netanyahu’s Monday approval for the 1,000 new homes in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Israel’s continued building across the Green Line was “incompatible with their stated desire to live in a peaceful society.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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