'Demand to prevent natural growth in settlements is unreasonable, akin to Pharaoh's demand that all firstborn sons be thrown into the Nile,' Minister Hershkowitz says. Labor: Avoid dispute with Obama administration
There is growing concern among Israeli ministers over Washington's call to freeze all settlement construction, including that which is attributed to "natural growth", which refers to the construction in existing settlements to accommodate growing families.
"The demand to prevent natural growth in settlements is unreasonable and is akin to Pharaoh's demand that all firstborn sons be thrown into the Nile River," said Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) ahead of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting.
Barak: US demand on settlement expansion makes no sense / Roni Sofer
Defense minister says natural growth requires Jews in West Bank to expand settlements, adding that he is concerned Palestinians 'talking about two states but not two peoples'
"What will we say to a family living with one child, which now has four or five children? That the children will move to Petah Tikva? The Americans must understand that this is an unreasonable demand, and we must confront them firmly," he added.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said upon entering the cabinet meeting that "the demand to freeze the construction in settlements is a decree the government and public cannot endure, particularly in terms of the natural growth in the settlements.
"This is an expulsion order for the youths living in Ma'aleh Adumim and Kiryat Sefer. I hope the American administration understand this… The concessions they are demanding from us constitute a security problem we cannot endure," he said.
Referring to peace process, Yishai said "we are doing more than the Palestinians. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government evacuated 24-25 settlements. We are doing a lot and the Palestinians are doing nothing."
According to Information Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud), the past few days "have proven how lucky we are that (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu's government is the one conducting the negotiations on the settlements and construction in Jerusalem. Another government would have complicated matters for generations to come"
"We are not going to confront the Americans, but rather reach an agreement with them, as Netanyahu's recent visit to Washington indicated," he said. "(US President Barack) Obama is a friend to the State of Israel and I'm certain we'll be able to resolve our differences."
Meanwhile, ministers from leftist Labor party called on the government to avoid a dispute with the US administration.
"We must understand that the rules of the game have changed," Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog said. "The current American government views the situation differently than the two presidents who preceded Obama.
"The construction around Jerusalem, in Ariel as well in Gush Etzion is being carried out in accordance with an agreement reached between Israel and past US administrations regarding the continuation of the construction in Israel's settlement blocs," he said.
Adressing the right-wing ministers, Herzog said "if you'll want the full glass, you'll end up with one that is half empty. If you do not create a diplomatic horizon, you will lose the Americans' support."