Those who thought that Netanyahu would never extend the building freeze are in for a surprise. His plan to replace Lieberman with Livni—Israel Beiteinu with Kadima—is meant for one purpose: To push through another Judea and Samaria building freeze, this time for one whole year. The only thing stopping him: the Likud party itself.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to announce another building freeze in the territories of Judea and Samaria for three months in order to jumpstart negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The freeze will be absolute.
According to Netanyahu’s plan which he is interested in presenting to US President Barack Obama next month, after a three months freeze, another freeze of 9 months will be announced in which limited building will be allowed, but only for “natural growth”.
In total, this would be a freeze of varying degrees of intensity for one year which would allow Netanyahu to enter into negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) for the purpose of a “framework agreement”. Netanyahu has been formulating this plan secretly during the last several weeks.
In parallel, he is enlisting political support from within the Likud in addition to other parties, including a bench plan to widen the coalition by bringing in Kadima at the expense of Israel Beiteinu. Several officials of Netanyahu have confirmed the last few days that Netanyahu has ripened to the decision and the he intends to embark on a “real political process and make leadership decisions”.
According to these same officials, the Prime Minister intends to pass the national budget over the next few weeks, which will give him some political quiet, following which he will turn to presenting and implementing his plan so that by January he can restart the negotiations for a 1 year time period.
No Final Decision Yet
Nevertheless, Netanyahu has not made a final decision and the pressure he’s under from all different directions is heavy, and he may yet change his mind and intentions at any given moment in consideration with the political and security circumstances.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued this statement: “The reports are incorrect. Contacts with the American administration are ongoing in order to jumpstart peace talks, and in contrast to the various media reports, no decision has been made in this matter.”
Predicted by Elements in the Likud
Netanyahu’s attempts to get rid of Lieberman’s Israel Beiteinu and replace it with Kadima were predicted by certain elements within the Likud party months ago. Head of the Likud Jewish Leadership faction Moshe Feiglin had said at the end of April that Netanyahu would have no choice but to bring Kadima into the coalition, extend the building freeze, and eventually divide Jerusalem. The only thing stopping him now, he said, are Likud members who Netanyahu is currently polling regarding their support for this move.
Asked if he would fight the process, he said he wouldn’t, as the current leadership paradigm in Israel is entirely based on peace talks and therefore there is no alternative to the eventuality of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria unless a new leadership paradigm is instated. In the meantime, in his words, nothing can stop Netanyahu in whatever he decides to do, only delay it temporarily.