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Netanyahu confirms partial freeze on Israeli activity in Judea and Samaria

The premier said his government would not advance plans to legalize outposts for the next few months.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Feb. 12, 2023. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Feb. 12, 2023. Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

Israel will not advance plans to legalize outposts in Judea and Samaria for the next few months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Monday, without specifying a precise timeframe.

The move does not apply to the decision earlier this month to authorize nine such communities made in response to a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem.

The announcement partially confirms a report that Israel has made a series of concessions as part of an informal U.S.-mediated deal with the Palestinians to reduce tensions ahead of Ramadan, which will begin on March 22 or 23.

The Walla news site reported on Sunday that under U.S. pressure, Israel agreed to postpone for several months the approval of additional construction beyond the Green Line, delay planned demolitions of Palestinian homes built without permits in eastern Jerusalem, curb evictions of Palestinians in illegal housing, and reduce the number of IDF raids in Palestinian cities.

Israel will also significantly curb Jewish access to the Temple Mount during Ramadan, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

For its part, the Palestinian Authority dropped a prospective U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli housing plans in Judea and Samaria.

draft resolution obtained by the Associated Press that would have demanded an immediate halt to all Israeli building activities across the Green Line was slated to be put to a vote as early as today.

The council will instead likely issue a non-binding statement supported by Washington that includes a denunciation of both the Israeli housing plans and recent Palestinian terrorist attacks.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both Netanyahu and P.A. head Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.

Blinken reaffirmed to both leaders Washington’s “commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and opposition to policies that endanger its viability,” according to the State Department. Blinken also “underscored the urgent need for Israelis and Palestinians to take steps that restore calm, and [the Biden administration’s] strong opposition to unilateral measures that would further escalate tensions.”

The announcement Monday is liable to create friction within Netanyahu’s coalition after the premier last week promised to immediately transfer to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich power over the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration, in accordance with their parties’ coalition agreement.

Netanyahu phoned Smotrich after the latter slammed the Civil Administration for ordering the razing earlier Wednesday of a Jewish-owned olive grove and orchard in Samaria.

The destruction of the property was carried out on the authority of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant despite orders from Smotrich to freeze the demolition.

Smotrich also serves as a minister in the Defense Ministry and has been tasked by Netanyahu with overseeing the Civil Administration, the ministry body responsible for approving construction and handling other bureaucratic matters in Area C of Judea and Samaria.

Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism Party, sent a letter to Netanyahu on Wednesday warning him that further delays in transferring to him full authority could threaten the stability of the government.

The same day, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who heads the Otzma Yehudit Party, also appeared to issue a threat to Netanyahu, saying that he “joined the government on the basis of a commitment that it would be completely right-wing, and this policy cannot continue.”

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