Barak approves 455 West Bank housing units ahead of freeze
(Video) Yesha Council says in response that 'you can't freeze a living body', while Opposition chair calls government duplicitous. 'Attempt at combining construction with freeze is slight of hand trick,' says Livni. 'I don't buy Netanyahu's honesty'
VIDEO - Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved on Sunday night the construction of 455 housing units in five settlement blocs in the West Bank, ahead of a planned freeze in construction that may lead to renewed negotiations with the Palestinians.
Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan said Sunday that settlers would "somehow break through" the disputed freeze. "You can't freeze a living body. What will happen now is an increase in activity on the ground. The settlements will not sustain a freeze."
Barak also approved the construction of a sports park in Ariel and a school in Har Adar. However most of the plans approved are not new, they had merely been put on hold until a permit from the defense Ministry could be issued.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said Israel's decision further undermined any belief that it is a credible partner for peace.
In a statement, Abbas' top negotiator said: "Israel's decision to approve the construction of over 450 new settlement units nullifies any effect that a settlement freeze, when and if announced, will have."
Meanwhile, Opposition chairwoman Tzipi Livni has declared the planned freeze a "slight of hand trick" by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"We have a government here that, as days go by it becomes clear that not only does it not have a path, but the prices it pays are the highest of all," she told Ynet.
Regarding the government's approval of West Bank construction plans while negotiating a freeze, Livni said, "The attempt at combining construction and a freeze is false. The attempt at building during a freeze is the construction of an igloo – an igloo will melt in the summer."
She said that her government had succeeded in holding negotiations with the Palestinians by showing the world Israel wanted to achieve an accord, while the construction in large settlements continued.
"But currently in order to enter into negotiations you have to pay the Right and the Americans with slips, as well as cheat the coalition partnership," the former foreign minister said.
Livni disputed Netanyahu's credibility and said he was only interested in "buying time".
"I don't buy Bibi's honesty," she said, adding that he had to decide before negotiations began "whether we're building or freezing".
"I would support a proper process," she added. "I announce that we as an opposition would support what is proper. As of now, the (government's) conduct is very problematic, and testifies to the fact that no process or path have been chosen."
Other voices deeming the government's conduct duplicitous have also emerged from the opposite side of the political spectrum. Yesha Council Director General Pinchas Wallerstein said to Ynet, "In actuality, the defense minister isn't authorizing even one house or one new contract, and isn't issuing one new tender."
"This won't atone for the issue of the freeze. These aren't new tenders or building permits (being issued), but the completion of permits and documents granted in the past," explained Wallerstein.
Attila Somfalvi and Efrat Weiss contributed to this report