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Tags: Netanyahu | settlers | freeze | talks

Netanyahu Urges Settlers to Cooperate With Freeze

Thursday, 03 December 2009 10:43 AM EST

Some 22 heads of councils from Judea and Samaria and a handful of heads of the Yesha Council met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and discussed the recently-announced 10-month settlement freeze on Thursday.

The prime minister was accompanied by Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, PM Bureau Chief Natan Eshel, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Netanyahu's spokesman Nir Hefetz.

According to the Prime Minister's Office the atmosphere at the meeting was respectful, in contrast to some reports from the settlers' camp.

Stressing the necessity for cooperation and leadership, Netanyahu said, "I want you as leaders to hold the steering wheel with us, but there is one thing that is not legitimate: you can protest, demonstrate and express your opinion, but it can't be that you don't abide by a decision that was lawfully taken. The real solution is through dialogue and finding solutions during this limited time period."

Netanyahu said that the decision to freeze settlement construction was "taken in the cabinet was the best one for Israel during this complicated diplomatic situation." Remarking on the obvious dissatisfaction of the leaders with the prime minister's decision, he said, "order is not easy for you or for me, and we will work so that its implementation will be as easy as possible on the public"

He explained that it was necessary to freeze construction, "We took this difficult decision in order to move Israel's widest interests forward. This step makes clear to the central actors in the world that Israel is serious in its intentions to achieve peace, while the Palestinians are the ones refusing to start peace negotiations. There is a side that wants, and one that doesn't, and that side made clear who are the peace resisters."

In his closing statement he told the community leaders, "This is a very important meeting, I wrote down 30 points about implementation of the order you raised, and I will talk about it with [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak." He also asked that they speak with Barak themselves and pledged to respond to the points raised in the meeting within the next few days.

Netanyahu reportedly implied that certain measures might be taken in the near future to alleviate the situation in the field. The settler leaders pledged to continue and resist the moratorium.

The settler representatives, however, did not find much consolation in the meeting on the building freeze, which besides great concern, is causing financial predicaments to people invested in West Bank construction.

The settler leaders reportedly told Netanyahu that they had not come to negotiate with him, but rather to express their objection to the freeze. It is our feeling Barak is garnering a political victory in the move, and you are disconnected from the field, they told the premier.

Settler leader Dani Dayan called the three-hour meeting in Tel Aviv "difficult" and "emotionally charged." Speaking on Israel Radio, he said the settlers would continue their struggle against the freeze, both through civil disobedience and legal challenges. The settlers have scheduled a mass demonstration next week in Jerusalem.

There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu's office.

Following the meeting, Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi said that "Our impression was that Netanyahu is aware of the problems with the orders' content, their ambiguous style, the way they were implemented and their complete revocation of the councils' authorities.

"I look forward to seeing Netanyahu fix these mistakes in the coming days," Channel 10 quoted Revivi as saying.

However, before the meeting began Pinhas Wallerstein, the director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, told Army Radio that possible financial benefits would not stop settlers from "using their bodies" to prevent the implementation of the construction freeze.

"If they give me ten more shekels or allow me to enclose a porch it will not matter," Wallerstein said on Thursday. "The settler leaders have no intention to stop their struggle despite the benefits' package being prepared by the Prime Minister's Office. We will use our bodies to prevent this, in an unequivocal way, and we are willing to pay with great pain."

Likud Central Committee chairman, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon, expressed opposition to the security cabinet's decision, saying another way should have been found to "iron out the difficulties" with the Palestinians.

"We didn't expect a thank you, but we did expect some kind of gratitude. It took [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] 24 hours to respond," Kahlon said in a Thursday interview with Army Radio. "Europe is unilaterally declaring east Jerusalem [as the Palestinian capital] and the US did not send us flowers following this move. We should have found a different way to iron out the difficulties."

Earlier Thursday, the subcommittee of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee dedicated to matters pertaining to Judea and Samaria urged Barak to freeze the moratorium until a mechanism to compensate those liable to be financially hurt by the move is agreed upon.

Besides the parliamentarians, attending the panel were also senior civil administration officials and settler leaders.

Meanwhile in the West Bank, dozens of Kedumim residents gathered at the entrance to the settlement on Thursday morning to prevent civil administration building inspectors from issuing stop-work orders.

The inspectors arrived at the settlement but decided to turn back when they saw the crowd, Army Radio reported.

© Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, 03 December 2009 10:43 AM
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