Lieberman went on a rather unusual trip to the notoriously ultra-right Samarian settlement of Itamar and an ‘illegal’ outpost nearby. He gave a speech there supporting the construction to accommodate natural growth—but not expansion. Thus, in lieu of his usual populist rhetoric, Lieberman recognized, if only implicitly, that the isolated settlements won’t be retained under any final-status agreement with the Palestinian Arabs, though a semblance of normal life there should continue.
In truth, the natural growth issue is greatly exaggerated: youth leaves most settlements for big cities, as it does everywhere in the world.
Netanyahu promised during a government meeting that the settlement freeze won’t continue. Immediately after that he implied the contrary: he said that the freeze was meant to encourage direct talks with the Arabs, which did not materialize. It follows that the freeze would continue if the Fatah chieftain wre to agree to direct talks with Israel.
Whether or not the freeze will be formally extended, it will continue de facto, with construction in settlements severely restricted through the planning process, which has been the government’s policy for many years.