Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ofir Akunis took Netanyahu’s position that settlement construction is not an impediment to a negotiated solution with the Palestinians to a whole new level. According to a report in Haaretz Tuesday:
… [Akunis asserted] that past experience has shown that a halt to construction has only driven the Palestinians away from negotiating with Israel. “The Likud policy is very consistent. Our call to the Palestinians to enter into direct peace negotiations without precondition is in effect,” he said. (Emphasis mine)
Akunis, the same Likud lawmaker who in the last Knesset proposed a bill to limit all foreign funding for “political organizations” and who said on TV in 2011 that Senator Joe McCarthy was right, essentially stated – as I can only deduce from his backwards statement – that the more Israel builds settlements the better it is for reaching a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. After all, stopping settlement construction would only push them away.
Meanwhile, former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman came out with what is probably the most moderate and diplomatically pragmatic statement he has probably ever made, confirming that there has been a de facto building freeze in East Jerusalem since no new tenders are being put through the pipeline. He explained that this “temporary hiatus” is meant to give U.S. Secretary of State Kerry a chance to succeed in his peacemaking efforts.
As, Noam Sheizaf reported Monday, construction of new housing in the West Bank – as opposed to East Jerusalem – is at a seven-year high.