(Emil Salman/POOL)

After being criticized for placing an unofficial freeze on construction in Judea and Samaria, Prime Minister Netanyahu said he is only calling for a more thoughtful approach, given the international scrutiny and pressure.

Pro-settlement protest

Activists accuse Netanyahu of failing to support settlement construction. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

The leaders of the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization of Jewish municipal councils in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of instituting an unofficial construction freeze. Netanyahu’s Likud Party denied the claim.

“I participated today in a meeting during which the Prime Minister declared his intention to stop the settlement project,” Har Hebron Regional Council head Yochai Damari told Ynet in an interview. “The significance of the decision to freeze planning and construction processes in Samaria will severely harm many settlements that are already dealing with not simple challenges. Stopping [the flow of] water to the plant is similar to uprooting it.”

Damari further insisted that, “Construction is the only and the most efficient way to combat terror. Not the death penalty and not imprisonment. I call on the government ministers to change this dangerous decision and to implement the voter mandate that recently said this in a clear manner.”

Beit El protest

Settlement activists protest a High Court decision against Beit El construction. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

However, the Likud Party denied Damari’s claims, telling Ynet, “In contradiction to the claim, the prime minister is not rejecting all construction in Judea and Samaria; he said that he will advance the settlement project with wisdom and responsibility in light of the complicated international reality.”

The dispute arose during a discussion of housing construction in Beit El, which the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered demolished due to the fact that it was built on private Palestinian land. According to Likud, Netanyahu said he would advance construction in Beit El by evacuating a border patrol outpost.

The Yesha Council has long accused Netanyahu of being an opponent to settlement construction. Netanyahu agreed to a settlement freeze from November 2009 until September 2010 in a failed effort to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table. In May 2014, the Yesha Council published an article on its website claiming that Netanyahu had initiated a second, more expansive, unofficial settlement freeze under pressure from the US and Europe.

By: Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel