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In Israeli settlements, residents and builders push back on 10-month freeze

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Ideological fault line

Netanyahu intended the settlement freeze as a good-faith gesture to the Obama administration. But presumably to appease his right-wing constituents he allowed building to continue in East Jerusalem and on 3,000 housing units elsewhere in the West Bank. The temporary halt in construction applies to any building which has not advanced past the stage of foundation work, said Guy Inbar, a spokesman for Israel's civil administration.

Though limited in scope, the freeze has aggravated an ideological fault line between settlers and Netanyahu.

"Netanyahu was elected on a platform that promised the development of the communities" of Judea and Samaria, says Aliza Herbst, a spokesperson for the settlers council, using the biblical names for the West Bank. "Now he's turned his back on his voters and I imagine he'll pay the price in his political future."

Despite his security hawk credentials, Netanyahu has been suspect among settlers ever since he transferred partial Israeli control over the West Bank to the Palestinians during his first administration in the late 1990s.

Apart from ideology, a practical battle

About three miles east of Oranit, in the settlement of Elkana, a construction drill grinding through rock in a new neighborhood of villas on Monday stopped work at around noon time.

Shimon Cohen, a building contractor who says he has overseen work on much of the Elkana neighborhood, called the decision "painful" but said he would ultimately respect the stop-work orders. Netanyahu, he said, was responding to US pressure rather than betraying his voters.

An Elkana resident who drove by the work site said he wouldn't accept the freeze and vowed that work would continue regardless.

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