A Palestinian woman argues with an Israeli border policeman during a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration “would like to see Israel hold back on settlement activity” and is in discussions with the Israeli government “as to what exactly that would look like,” a State Department official said on Tuesday.
Mark Toner, an acting spokesman who worked on behalf of the prior administration from the same podium, opened the State Department briefing room for the first time since US President Donald Trump took office in January. He took multiple questions on Middle East peace, but provided little clarity beyond what the president has himself expressed on his evolving vision for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“We are working closely with the White House on evaluating where we stand,” Toner said, declining to specify what role Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, would play in any future peace effort.
Toner said that continued settlement activity in the West Bank “might affect the overall climate” of potential peace talks, reiterating what Trump administration officials said last month ahead of a visit to Washington from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
During that trip, Netanyahu acknowledged that settlements were “an issue” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – if not a primary obstacle to peace – and said that his government would work with the Trump administration in order to formulate a mechanism to handle any future settlement activity.
Trump tells Israel to 'hold back on settlements' during meeting with Netanyahu at White House on Feb. 15, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)