Netanyahu denies settlement halt after Jordan summit: ‘There won’t be any freeze’

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Netanyahu denies settlement halt after Jordan summit: ‘There won’t be any freeze’

A joint statement signed by Israel, U.S., Palestinan Authority, Jordan and Egypt said Israel had agreed to 'stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months'

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Smotrich, February 2023. Photo: Kobi Gideon (GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Finance Minister Smotrich, February 2023. Photo: Kobi Gideon (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on Sunday, denying that Israel had agreed to a settlement freeze at an international summit in Jordan. 

Following the summit in Aqaba, Jordan, in which Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the U.S. participated, a joint communique was issued, stating that Israel had agreed to “stop discussion of any new settlement units for four months and to stop authorisation of any outposts for six months.”

This comes after Israel announced earlier this month that it was moving forward with legalising nine illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, as well as approving roughly 10,000 new units in other settlements.

Shortly after the statement was released by the White House, Netanyahu denied the pledge, saying “the building and authorisation in Judea and Samaria will continue according to the original planning and building schedule, with no change. There is not and will not be any freeze.”

National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi, who was part of the Israeli delegation, issued a similar statement, saying: “Contrary to reports and tweets about the meeting in Jordan, there is no change in Israeli policy.”

“In the coming months, the State of Israel will authorize nine outposts and approve 9,500 new housing units in Judea and Samaria. There is no construction freeze or change in the status quo on the Temple Mount; neither is there any restriction on IDF activity,” Hanegbi added.

The meeting in Aqaba was an attempt to lower the flames between Israelis and Palestinians. Over 60 Palestinians have been killed in 2023 alone, most of whom Israel says were either directly or indirectly involved in terrorism.

As the meeting in Aqaba took place, two Israeli civilians were killed in a terror attack in the West Bank. Finance Minister Smotrich and Likud lawmaker Danny Danon demanded that the Israeli delegation return from the summit “immediately” following the attack.

Smotrich, who said he had ni clue what was discussed at the “superfluous” summit, said there wouldn’t be a freeze in settlement construction for whatsoever.

Ben-Gvir also dismissed what was agreed upon in the summit, saying “What happened in Jordan (if it happened), will remain in Jordan.”

The joint communique also stated that all parties “recognise the importance of upholding unchanged the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem in word and practice, and emphasises in this regard the Hashemite Custodianship / special role of Jordan.”

Israeli security experts have warned in recent months that the already escalating situation between the Israelis and Palestinians might explode during the upcoming month of Ramadan, where thousands of Palestinians visit the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount.

Previous years have seen severe clashes on the Temple Mount during Ramadan between Israeli security forces and Palestinians.

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