Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the Trump tower.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDON / GPO)
West Bank settlements will be among the wide ranging set of issues Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump will discuss when they hold their first meeting since Trump entered the Oval Office.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu looks forward to his meeting with President Trump on February 15 in which they will speak about a wide range of issues, including this one," the Prime Minister's Office said after the publication of two statements from the Trump administration warning Israel to curb such activity.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely gave a more extensive answer, saying on Friday that Israel had an obligation to build in the West Bank.
"This government was chosen to execute the rights of the people of Israel to build in all parts of the country," Hotovely said.
“Even the White House knows that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and never were an obstacle to peace.
“The obvious conclusion is that the building is not a problem," Hotovely said.
“During the last 25 [years] the Palestinians have blocked all attempts to resolve [the conflict],” she said.
“It is therefore important to reexamine the question of what is the essence of the conflict [with the Palestinians] and to provide new alternatives.
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“We should examine a regional option that doesn’t leave us dependent on the Palestinians who do not want to come to an agreement with us,” Hotovely added.
The Deputy Foreign Minister spoke up in response to two statements by the Trump administration, the first of which was exclusively published in The Jerusalem Post
A senior administration official told the paper that Israel must cease its settlement announcements, which are “unilateral” and “undermining” of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace.
The White House later published a public statement that said as follows: “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”
Right wing Israelis immediately welcomed the statement as a sign that Trump stood with them, given his statements that settlements are not an obstacle to peace. In addition, his clarification of where Israelis could build in the West Bank seemed very broad and could also be interpreted as including all of the settlements, including those within the bloc.
The White House noted that Trump had not taken a position on settlements and that he was waiting to discuss the matter with Netanyahu when the two meet on February 15.
"The YESHA Council thanks the White House for asserting that our communities were never an impediment to peace. Nothing is more natural and morally just than Jews building in Judea. We look forward to working closely with our friends in the new Trump administration to build a brighter future all," said Oded Revivi, Chief Foreign Envoy of the YESHA Council.
But MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Union) linked the White House statement to the evacuation of the Amona outpost, located in an isolated spot in the West Bank, even though it was done under a High Court of Justice order.
“The statement shows that the Amona evacuation was justified and that we have to build according [to] the law and in agreed upon areas,” he said, adding that this meant the security areas and the blocs.
He urged Netanyahu to place the new settlements in the blocs, given that Trump’s message was promoted by the decision to create a new settlement for the 40 families. It would mark the first time Israel has done this since 1991.
Israel has promised the US in the past that it would not create new settlements.
It also followed an unprecedented set of Israeli announcements stating that the state would approve and advance 5,500 new settler homes.
Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro tweeted that Trump’s statement that settlement activity could be a negative factor in Middle East peacemaking “is in continuity with US policy for many years.”
Former US Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk tweeted that the statement’s language was akin to what was used when former US President Bill Clinton was in office.
“Settlements may not be helpful to achieving peace. That’s our Bill,” he said.