The new building freeze plan ironed out by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week is beginning to melt.
Knesset Members in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s own Likud party are trying to convince more than 50 percent of the party’s legislators to sign a petition rejecting the idea. However, they so far are trying to unite the party and not take any steps that night weaken the government and play into the hands of the Obama administration, which by all reports wants a coalition government to include the center-left Kadima party.
Likud opponents to the Clinton freeze plan, which Prime Minister Netanyahu has accepted in principle, are urgently gathering signatures Tuesday night to present to the Prime Minister before he brings the proposal to the Cabinet, possibly on Wednesday. Most analysts think that he has a one-vote majority among ministers, on the assumption that many of those against the proposal will abstain.
Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely said the letter is intended to be “clear message to the Prime that the Likud faction is against” renewing the freeze, that expired in September after a 10-month moratorium aimed at bringing the PA back to direct talks with Israel.
The letter states, “As representatives of the Likud in the Knesset and the government, it is our duty to stand on the principles of the Likud and Jewish settlement. Promises were made that the [expired] freeze would be one-time and that we would resume building at the end of the freeze. There is no justifiable reason to break this commitment.”
As more details of the proposal become known, there are increasing calls for the Obama administration to put its verbal promises in writing. Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who is the most dovish Likud minister, admitted on Tuesday that Prime Minister Netanyahu is waiting for the Obama administration for written confirmation of its promises, including an American gift “reward” of 10 advanced stealth fighters in addition to those Israel already has agreed to buy.
The Likud MKs are not the only reason the Clinton freeze is melting. The Arab world has issued negative signals and sees the freeze proposal as the death knell to its conditions for recognition of the Palestinian Authority as a country. The PA is particularly upset over the American promise to veto any United Nations resolution calling for recognition of the PA as a state, a move that his become the heart of its strategy the past year.
The United States has verbally promised that the proposed freeze will last for only 90 days and will be non-renewable. However, the Obama administration may not fulfill its promise unless Israel and the Palestinian Authority conclude an agreement on final borders for a PA state within a year.
Both Arabs and Israeli nationalists see the proposal as a trap that on one hand would force Israel to surrender most of Judea and Samaria, give up strategic hills and water resources and expel more than 150,000 Jews from their homes.
On the other hand, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Arab League are sour on the Clinton freeze plan because it does not include areas of Jerusalem it wants as part of a state. Abbas also has said that his demands are non-negotiable, mainly forcing Israel to give up land which was restored to Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Veteran PA negotiator and intellectual Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said. “The U.S. policy clearly is witnessing a real regression because they are desperately trying to accommodate Israeli demands by paying them in strategic currency in order to obtain some temporarily tactical gains. The U.S. has become complicit in accepting Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem.”