Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his security cabinet Thursday that he will unilaterally restrict new settlement construction in the West Bank in a show of goodwill to President Donald Trump, according to a minister.
Netanyahu’s decision will limit Israeli construction to already-developed settlements, as opposed to expropriating new West Bank land. If not possible to build in a current settlement, Israeli authorities would build adjacent to those areas. The new policy would not permit the construction of any new illegal outposts.
“There are no understandings with the Americans and this wasn’t agreed on with the administration, but rather these are restrictions that Israel is taking upon itself in response to the president’s request,” the minister, speaking on condition of anonymity to Israeli newspaper Haaretz after the meeting, said. “In any case, the ‘payment’ to the Americans isn’t over.”
It comes after Netanyahu announced the creation of Israel’s first new settlement for two decades Thursday. The outpost was announced in a bid to appease 40 settler families evicted from the West Bank settlement of Amona in February.
It will be built north of Ramallah on a hilltop Israelis refer to as “Geulat Zion,” near the existing West Bank settlement of Shiloh.
Trump has dispatched his Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt to the region in recent weeks to meet with both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to revive the peace process. His visits began negotiations between Trump’s team and Netanyahu’s government in a bid to reach an understanding on settlement construction.
No agreement has been made but Netanyahu reportedly took the step himself to address Trump’s concerns about increased settlement construction, which he last month called “not helpful” to peace efforts.
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SOURCE: Newsweek, Jack Moore