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Israel’s anti-Netanyahu coalition leaders pledge there will be no settlement freeze

This file picture shows a view of the Israeli settlement of Ariel in the occupied West Bank on January 28, 2020. (Photo by AP)

Opponents of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the prospective new administration have announced that there will not be a freeze in construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territories, despite international outcry over the Tel Aviv regime’s land expropriation policies.

David Elhayani, who heads the Jordan Valley Regional Council and the Yesha umbrella council of settlement mayors, said senior lawmakers in the right-wing Israeli political parties of Yamina and New Hope have stated that they would not form a new governing coalition that would end Netanyahu’s 12-year rule in case there will be a freeze.

“I ... do not think that this administration will harm the settlement movement,” Elhayani said.

He added, “[New Hope chairman] Gideon Sa’ar, [Yamina chairman] Naftali Bennett and [Yisrael Beytenu chairman] Avigdor Liberman are very committed to the right-wing.”

Elhayani noted that opposition leaders have reached agreements with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid to ensure that in addition to no construction freeze, the so-called Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee – the body affiliated with the Israeli ministry of military affairs and responsible for authorizing settlement construction in the occupied West Bank – will continue to meet on a quarterly basis.

Benny Gantz, who is poised to continue his job as Israeli minister of military affairs in the new administration, suggested earlier this week that he would make the decisions on settlement construction and not Bennett or Sa’ar.

“Only I will decide on settlement construction and negotiate with the Americans on issues pertaining to Judea and Samaria (West Bank),” Elhayani quoted Gantz as having said. 

Elhayani highlighted that both Bennett and Sa’ar “will safeguard the interests of the settlement movement, both at the budgetary level and at the diplomatic level.”

More than 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israel has stepped up its illegal settlement construction activities in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which has pronounced settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds “a flagrant violation under international law.”

All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

Netanyahu’s opponents announced late on Wednesday they had reached a deal to form a new governing coalition and oust the longtime Israeli leader.

But the agreement must still be approved by the Knesset, or parliament, in a vote that is expected to take place early next week. If it goes through, opposition leader Yair Lapid and a diverse array of partners will take the helm.

Meanwhile, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip have dismissed a change in Israeli administration, saying Bennet, who is due to replace Netanyahu under a patchwork coalition, would likely pursue the same right-wing agenda.

Bassem al-Salhi, a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said on Thursday that the prime minister designate was no less extreme than Netanyahu, adding, “He will make sure to express how extreme he is in the administration.”

“There is no difference between one Israeli leader and another… When it comes to us, they are all bad, and they all refuse to give the Palestinians their rights and their land,” Ahmed Rezik, 29, a government worker in Gaza, said.

The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, said it made no difference who in charge of the Tel Aviv regime.

“Palestinians have seen dozens of Israeli administrations throughout history, right, left, center, as they call it. But all of them have been hostile when it comes to the rights of our Palestinian people and they all had hostile policies of expansionism,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem pointed out.

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