Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told West Bank Jewish leaders Monday night that settlement development was effectively frozen, local council leaders claimed.
According to a report on Ynet news, the prime minister told council heads during a tense meeting that “the settlements can no longer be developed and we must preserve that which exists.”
There was no official corroboration of settler leaders’ claims.
But following the meeting, the Yesha Council, which represents the settler movement, issued a scathing statement that “A government that does not build loses its right to exist.”
The council rejected assertions that a halt to construction would help preserve existing settlements. “The right way to protect the settlement project is only through development and construction. The best defense is an offense.”
The head of the Har Hebron regional council Yohai Damari also issued a statement according to which “the prime minister stated his intent to halt the settlement initiative.”
Damari said such action would “desperately hurt many communities.”
Both the Yesha Concul and Damari called on government ministers to prevent a construction freeze.
At the end of last month, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki handed International Criminal Court prosecutors a file detailing settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza.
The Israeli government has said it will respond to the ICC’s investigation on the matter.
Israeli officials maintained, however, that their communications with the ICC probe will only be to reaffirm the government’s stance that the Palestinian Authority, as a non-state actor, does not have the right to open a case against Israel, the report said.