Settler leaders to Lieberman: Government that freezes settlement construction will fall
Samaria regional council leader Yossi Dagan calls on the defense minister to renounce his assertion that Israel should only build in the major settlement blocs; MKs on the right also criticized Lieberman: 'the statement on implementing a leftist policy vis-à-vis Amona and the settlements is simply outrageous,' says MK Shuli Mualem.
In a briefing with reporters earlier in the day, Lieberman said Israel should reach an agreement concerning the settlements with US President-elect Donald Trump's administration that would be based on an understanding reached between former US President George W. Bush and the late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.
An exchange of letter between Bush and Sharon in 2005 led to an agreement in principle that the US would recognize existing settlement blocs.
“It is an intermediary agreement,” said Lieberman. “If we receive further confirmation from the new administration in accordance with the Bush-Sharon agreement, we should wholeheartedly take it on and not build outside the blocs. We should take it step by step, in accordance with the correspondence, not exacerbate matters, not take more on and not diminish from it, either.”
Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria regional council, spoke to senior officials in Lieberman's office, demanding clarifications about the matter.
"Such a miserable statement at this sensitive timing, a moment before US President-elect Donald Trump enters the White House, sends a bad message to the new, supportive administration," Dagan said. "I demand both Defense Minister Lieberman and Prime Minister Netanyahu to renounce this statement."
"A government that tries to freeze construction and certainly a government that tries to draw a line to withdraw to in Judea and Samaria (the 'settlement blocs')—such a government will fall," Dagan added and warned Lieberman of "making reckless statements to the new American administration."
Officials in the Yesha Council noted that "the statements attributed to Lieberman are grave. The government must resume construction in Jerusalem and all across Judea and Samaria. We expect clarifications from the defense minister on this issue."
Lieberman’s remarks also drew mitigated criticism from Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud), who wished to put some distance between his stated positions and those of the Israeli government.
“The defense minister’s statements on a deal made with President-elect Trump are his alone and do not reflect the position of the government,” she said. “As is the custom, the new administration and the Israeli government will begin a communication process upon Trump’s entry to the White House. Currently, any limitation on Israel’s right to build hinders Israeli interests.”
Bayit Yehudi MK Shuli Mualem also criticized Lieberman's comments, saying that his "statement on implementing a leftist policy vis-à-vis Amona and the settlements is simply outrageous. Before becoming defense minister, he declared that his policy would be to fight against terrorism, not against the settlements. I expect Lieberman to take back his statement and keep his promises to the right-wing voters."
The Prime Minister's Office did not directly address Lieberman's statements, and instead said in response: "Prime Minister Netanyahu will listen to the ministers and then put together a governmental position in response to the new US administration."
The opposition, meanwhile, welcomed Lieberman's comments. Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter that "We should listen to Lieberman on Amona and the construction in the (settlement) blocs. These are the only responsible statements coming out of the coalition today."
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni added "Lieberman is right. Instead of going wild in Amona, Israel should cement with the Americans the commitments achieved during the Sharon-Bush time—against the right of return and in favor of keeping the blocs."