Israel must begin building new homes in all West Bank settlements once the moratorium on such activity ends on September 26, Foreign Minister Avigodor Lieberman said Monday during a visit to the Samaria region.
He spoke after planting tree in the Itamar settlement, located outside the boundary of the security barrier.
"We want to ensure that at the end of September life will return to normal. We do not want to protest or to make provocations, but it is people's right to live normally. There is no reason that people [in the settlements] do not enjoy the same living conditions of all other Israeli citizens," said Lieberman.
His visit, which was organized by the Samaria Regional Council, marks the first time that a Foreign Minister has come to the small hilltop community of 170 families since its inception in 1984.
It comes in advance of Thursday's Arab League vote on whether to support direct talks with Israel.
Lieberman said it was his understanding that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas planned to ask the League to oppose direct negotiations with Israel, which were broken off in December of 2008.
"Abu Mazen is looking for excuses not to sit down with Israel," Lieberman said.
Israel has done everything it can to bring him to the negotiating table. "Now it is all dependent on them. If they want to talk with us they will and if they don't want to, they won't," he said.
On Monday Netanyahu said that Israel would not extend the 10-month freeze.
Netanyahu noted that his cabinet declared the moratorium to encourage Palestinians to negotiate with Israel directly, instead of through the US.
He said the freeze was limited in time: "It has not changed and that's how it will be."
Lieberman said during his Samaria tour that he would not support any further concessions in with respect to settlement construction.
"Israel shouldn't make any more gestures [with regard to building. I would oppose them with all my might," he said.
Lieberman distinguish, however, between construction in isolated settlement and those in the settlement blocs.
In areas that Israel plans to retain under any final status agreement with the Palestinians, including Ariel, normal building should resume under the same terms as would occur within any Israeli community within the pre-1967 lines, he said.
In settlements outside the blocs, construction should occur to keep up with natural growth so that the normal life of people in places like Itamar can continue, Lieberman said.
"The residents of Samaria were sent here as emissaries of the government and their rights need to be respected," he said.
Earlier during the day, during a visit to the unauthorized outpost of Bruchin, he said that the community has been inappropriately labeled an outpost and should be recognized as a legal settlement.
Speaking of Bruching and of the plight of Samaria residents in general, Lieberman said, "the reality that residents of Bruchin face is unbearable. I speak as someone who lives in a such a community. We must repay the people who came to Samaria on behalf of all previous Israeli governments and found themeselves in an absurd situation."
Lieberman said that he did support steps to ease movement for West Bank Palestinians as well as steps that improve security for the Palestinians.
Back in November, Lieberman said, he was among those who had supported the 10-month moratorium with a "full heart."
In freezing new housing starts, Israel had gone above and beyond what should have been required, he said.
"It was a gesture, a sign of good will," he said. Israeli citizens have "paid a price" for that gesture.
He added that the terms of the moratorium had be respected until its end date of September 26th.
He noted that Israel knows how to act against illegal construction in the settlements, but has not done enough when it comes to illegal Palestinian construction.
He said that he himself is a daily witness to that illegal construction when he drives from his home in the Nokdim settlement to his nearby office in Jerusalem.
Lieberman asked Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, to start to monitor illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank in the same way that non-governmental groups like Peace Now have monitored construction activity in the settlements.
At a stop in a factory in the Barkan Industrial park in Samaria, he also pledged that his faction, who traveled with him, would do its utmost in the Knesset to help factories who have been harmed by the Palestinian boycott on products produced in West Bank Jewish communities.
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