Jerusalem, Mar 31 (AP) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a slowdown of construction in territory Palestinians want for a state in a gesture to President Donald Trump at the same cabinet meeting where he approved the first new settlement in the heart of the West Bank in two decades.
Israeli media today reported that Netanyahu, facing pressures pulling him in different directions, announced the new slowdown policy at a meeting the night before, where his cabinet also approved the first West Bank settlement in two decades as compensation for the Amona outpost demolished in February.
Netanyahu was pressed keep his promise to build a new settlement to replace Amona a settlement outpost built on private Palestinian land that was dismantled following an Israeli Supreme Court ruling especially by pro-settler hard-liners who dominate his coalition and oppose Palestinian statehood on security or religious grounds. It appeared he was also compelled, however, to demonstrate paying heed to White House concerns that settlement building could pose an obstacle to a lasting peace with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu told ministers to take Trump’s position “into consideration” and that construction will be limited to within settlement boundaries and no new outposts will be allowed.
White House envoy Jason Greenblatt has already made two visits to the region, meeting with Israelis and Palestinians and attending an Arab summit in Jordan this week. Greenblatt has been working with the Israelis on a series of understandings over settlement construction in hopes of restarting peace talks that collapsed over two years ago in part over the thorny issue of settlements.
A White House official sought to play down Thursday’s Israeli announcement, saying Netanyahu made his promise to the Amona settlers before Trump laid out his vision. But the official, who agreed to discuss the matter on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about it, signaled that the White House would take a tougher line down the road.
Thursday’s announcement said the new settlement would be built near the settlement of Shilo, close to the former site Amona. It also said the government had approved tenders to build 2,000 new apartments from previously approved settlement projects.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in 1967, as parts of a future state.
In December, weeks before Trump was inaugurated, President Barack Obama allowed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution that declared settlements in both areas to be illegal and an obstacle to reaching a two state solution to the conflict. Trump condemned the decision at the time. (AP) ANB
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.