Danny Danon, a Likud Party lawmaker and head of its international support arm, is pushing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make good on his promise to let West Bank settlement construction resume in September.
While a temporary ban declared by Netanyahu in November expires Sept. 26, Danon said today he will mobilize supporters inside Israel and out so the prime minister doesn’t extend the moratorium as a gesture to the Palestinians and President Barack Obama, who is trying to broker Middle East peace talks.
“That’s going to be D-Day in Judea and Samaria,” Danon, who put a virtual hourglass on his website ticking off the minutes to Sept. 26, said in an interview in Jerusalem, using the biblical terms for the West Bank. “There will be an enormous amount of pressure coming from the White House” and settlement opponents within Israel “to convince him the right thing to do is to extend the freeze.”
Netanyahu’s government approved the 10-month moratorium on construction Nov. 25 in a bid to restart peace talks with the Palestinians that were suspended in December 2008. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that was insufficient because it didn’t apply to areas of Jerusalem that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Netanyahu has said Israel won’t halt construction in east Jerusalem or on projects involving public buildings in the West Bank, such as synagogues and kindergartens. He also excluded from the moratorium almost 3,000 housing units in which construction was already underway or approved.
Abbas agreed this month to engage in U.S.-mediated indirect talks with Israel after Netanyahu suspended construction of 1,600 housing units in an east Jerusalem neighborhood. He is still insisting on a total construction freeze before agreeing to resume direct peace talks with Israel.
Danon, 39, said most of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and members of other parties in his coalition government want to resume construction in the West Bank.
“We’re going to see on Sept. 26 whether the prime minister goes back to the real values of the party and his promise to the voters, or if he’s changing his direction and extending the freeze,” he said.
Netanyahu is unlikely to risk a breakup of his coalition government to extend the moratorium unless there is a breakthrough in talks with Abbas.
“It would have to be one incredible deal and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Shmuel Sandler, a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said in a phone interview.
The prime minister continues to regard the construction ban as a temporary step that expires Sept. 26, spokesman Mark Regev said in a phone interview.
“It was for 10 months only,” Regev said.