U.S. President Barack Obama praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday, saying that his decision to impose a 3-month construction freeze in Judea and Samaria shows seriousness on the part of Netanyahu.
Speaking to reporters in the U.S., Obama said that renewing the freeze is an encouraging and promising sign. He expressed his hopes that a new date for resumption of negotiations is set quickly and then there will be no need to continue the construction freeze. “I commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for taking a very helpful step. It is not an easy step not for him, but it shows he’s serious,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, a diplomatic source clarified on Sunday evening that despite Obama’s statements, no agreements have yet been reached within the Israeli government regarding the continuation on the freeze. “The Prime Minister has not yet reached an agreement regarding the freeze and is still insisting that certain conditions be met. Only when these conditions are met will there be an agreement on this issue and it will be brought forward to the security cabinet.”
The new freeze proposal was highly criticized throughout the day on Sunday. MK Danny Danon (Likud) convened an emergency meeting with Samaria local authority chief Gershon Mesika, Beit El Mayor Moshe Rosenbaum, Elkana Mayor Tzadok Nehorai, other Judea and Samaria local authority officials and Likud activists. Danon said that the idea of another construction freeze is “another bad move by the Obama administration. It is strange that the results of the elections in the United States did not turn on a huge warning light for Obama, that the way to justify his Nobel prize is not through pressure on Israel.”
Danon appealed to Netanyahu to “return to the true oath of loyalty [to Israel] of the Likud.” He declared: “If Netanyahu opts for a second freeze, we will consider parliamentary steps in resistance to a continuation of the freeze,” but did not specify what such steps might be.
MK Uri Orbach (the Jewish Home) said in an interview with Arutz7 on Sunday, that if the government decides to renew the freeze, his party would leave the coalition.
Earlier in the day, Shas Chairman Eli Yishai said that he would abstain in a Cabinet vote on a new freeze if two conditions are met, one of them being a letter from President Obama promising that Israel can resume construction after 90 days. Yishai added that he also wants it made clear that all building for Jews will proceed in all of Jerusalem.
Yishai’s announcement that he would abstain caused an outrage among residents of Judea and Samaria communities, as dozens of people protested angrily outside the homes of ministers from the Shas party. The protesters blew ram’s horns and held large signs that proclaimed “The Freeze is Shas’s Yom Kippur” – a reference to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, in which Israel sustained heavy casualties due to poor intelligence. Other signs blamed Shas Chairman Eli Yishai for the freeze. The demonstrators also chanted: “Shas are liars!”