Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have clashed on a number of issues in recent weeks, but today they were speaking with the same voice on the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“From September we must resume normal life.” insisted Lieberman, referring to the end of the temporary freeze in construction across much of the West Bank. He pledged to resist international efforts to extend the freeze or convince Israel to make “any more gestures” for the sake of peace talks.
Netanyahu concurred, and when asked about his previous promise not to extend the freeze declared “it has not changed and that’s how it will be.” Netanyahu has insisted the freeze was a failure and isn’t worth extending.
But as Western nations press the Palestinian Authority to agree to direct peace talks with Israel, the prospect that the Israeli government will keep expanding settlements in what is supposed to be the territory of a future Palestinian state will not exactly inspire confidence in the process. It is clear that the West would just as soon see the freeze extended, limited though it may be.
Israel’s right-far-right coalition government, however, depends in no small part on support from the settlers, and even if this support comes with occasional riots it seems the government is committed to them, regardless of the impact on any fledgling peace process.