'It's okay to be a pig but not to be a hazer'

‘PM to settler leaders: US told Israel not to be a pig on settlement building’

In meeting with Yesha Council, Netanyahu says DC will tolerate limited construction, won’t distinguish between blocs and isolated settlements; Trump to present peace plan soon

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on September 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Gali Tibbon)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opens the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on September 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Gali Tibbon)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told settler leaders on Wednesday that US officials told his chief of staff to not be a “pig” on new settlement construction and that the Trump administration is prepared to tolerate limited settlement building, a senior settler present at the meeting said.

“It’s okay to be a pig but not to be a hazer,” Netanyahu said, relaying a message he said his chief of staff was given and using the Yiddish word for pig, the official from the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group told The Times of Israel.

During the closed-door meeting, Netanyahu said he successfully convinced the Trump administration to drop its distinction between settlement blocs and so-called isolated settlements.

Settlement blocs are defined as large built-up areas, mostly located near the pre-1967 Green Line, while isolated settlements are located in more far-flung areas of the West Bank surrounded by large Palestinian populations.

Netanyahu also said that the US has refrained from criticizing Israel over settlement construction due to Israel’s adherence to self-imposed limitations on new building.

The Yesha official said Netanyahu reiterated his promise to build 300 new homes in Beit El, which he had promised following the demolition of a number of homes in the settlement in 2012.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Yesha Council leaders at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on September 27, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

While Netanyahu did not directly address a series of demands for new settlement building and infrastructure, he said 3,330 new units would be approved for construction during the next meeting of the Civil Administration Higher Planning Committee on October 16, according to the Yesha official.

Netanyahu also told settler leaders that he believes US President Donald Trump will soon present a plan for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

During the meeting, settler leaders called for lifting an Obama-era “freeze” on new construction in the West Bank and to complete “the building gaps that were delayed during the eight-year freeze of the Obama administration.”

Specifically, the group called for advancing the construction of 10,000 housing units in the settlements of Negohot and Migron, as well in the mostly Arab West Bank city of Hebron, according to a statement from the Yesha Council.

Despite the claim of a building “freeze” during the presidency of Barack Obama, data from the Central Bureau of Statistics shows there was an average of 1,725.5 housing starts a year during his tenure, 100 less than the average of 1,828.75 housing starts a year when Republican George W. Bush was president.

Construction of new housing in the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim, September 25, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

The settler leaders also called on Netanyahu to end the “discrimination” and “neglect” of infrastructure in the West Bank.

“In Judea and Samaria there is a years-long neglect of everything connected to the development of public transportation, water, electricity gas,” the Yesha Council said.

The group also called for the construction of additional bypass roads in the West Bank and said the infrastructure development would benefit the area’s Jewish and Palestinian residents.

The Prime Minister’s Office said during the meeting, which it described as a toast for the Jewish new year, settler leaders “thanked Prime Minister Netanyahu and praised him for his action on behalf of settlement in Judea and Samaria.”

The sit-down came ahead of an event later Wednesday in the Etzion settlement bloc celebrating 50 years of settlement in the West Bank and Golan Heights.

Netanyahu is set to speak at the ceremony in what will be the fourth event in the West Bank that the prime minister has addressed in the last three months.

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