Gil Hoffman
The Jerusalem Post
October 29, 2010 - 12:00am

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lacks a majority to pass a new moratorium on housing starts in Judea and Samaria in any possible forum of ministers, The Jerusalem Post has established.

Netanyahu has been making an effort to gauge what kind of support he would have if he wanted to renew the freeze in order to satisfy US President Barack Obama and bring the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table.

Sources who have spoken to many ministers in recent days said Thursday, however, that Netanyahu had given no indication that he had decided whether to bring a renewed freeze to a vote at all, and if so whether he would attempt to do so before the full complement of his 30 ministers or the 15-member security cabinet.

The 10-month freeze that ended in September was passed in the latter forum.

Legally, aides to the prime minister acknowledge, Netanyahu would have to bring a further freeze to a vote in either the cabinet or the security cabinet. Such a vote would be necessary in order to require the commander of the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria to issue another injunction barring housing starts. The seven-member inner security cabinet has no statutory role.

Multiple security cabinet ministers who voted last November for the first freeze have indicated in closed conversations that they would not now vote for another. The moratorium last year was backed by 11 of the 15 ministers, including right-wing Likud ministers Moshe Ya’alon and Bennie Begin and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu.

Israel Beiteinu’s Uzi Landau was the only minister who voted against the move. Shas’s two ministers absented themselves from the vote, and the Likud’s Silvan Shalom was abroad.

Ya’alon, Begin, Shalom, Lieberman, Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) have all indicated that they would join Landau in voting against another freeze now, for a total of seven definite votes against in the security cabinet.

The five definite supporters of a renewed freeze in the security cabinet would be Netanyahu, Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman of Likud, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of Labor.

Netanyahu would then need all three remaining votes in order to pass the freeze. Two remaining Likud ministers are loyal to Netanyahu but have come out publicly against a renewed freeze: Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. A source close to Sa’ar said he would only make a decision if another offer were on the table.

Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias has said he would not stand in the way of passing another freeze as long as construction afterward would be unlimited. This is unlikely to be the case, but even if it were, the best he could do would be to absent himself from the vote like he did last time, not cast the deciding eighth vote in favor.

In the 30-member cabinet, the 16 definite votes against a renewed freeze would be the five Israel Beiteinu ministers, Habayit Hayehudi leader Daniel Herschkowitz, at least three out of the four from Shas, and the Likud’s Begin, Ya’alon, Shalom, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon and Minister-without-Portfolio Yossi Peled.

Sa’ar, Steinitz, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz have also publicly opposed another freeze, even though their votes are less definite.

Since the seven-member inner security cabinet has no statutory role, it could not be used to pass a freeze even if there were a majority.

But four ministers there oppose a renewed freeze: Begin, Ya’alon, Lieberman and Yishai.

Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria director-general Naftali Bennett said he was convinced another freeze, if Netanyahu sought one, would not pass.

Netanyahu’s associates declined to comment.


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