US understands construction of new Israeli settlement, White House official says


(JTA) — White House officials appeared to show understanding of the Israeli government’s decision to build a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in 20 years, despite condemnations of the move at the United Nations and by the Palestinians.

One official told The Times of Israel on Thursday that “we would note that the Israeli prime minister made a commitment to the Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations” that Israel reduce construction in settlements. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Earlier in the day, Israel’s security cabinet gave the go-ahead for the building of a settlement for Jewish residents of Amona, a West Bank outpost of 40 homes that was evacuated in February.

In February, President Donald Trump said that he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements a little bit.” Earlier in February, Trump had said settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.

The official interviewed by The Times of Israel also indicated that Jerusalem had agreed to restrain settlement construction after the new community.

“President Trump has publicly and privately expressed his concerns regarding settlements. As the administration has made clear, while the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace,” the official said.

“The Israeli government has made clear that going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the President’s concerns into consideration. The United States welcomes this.”

A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “disappointment and alarm” at the announcement.

“The secretary-general has consistently stressed that there is no Plan B for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace and security,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. “He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution.”

Palestinian and Arab leaders also condemned the announcement of the new settlement.

It is part of “systematic policies of settler colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, showing a total and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said.

Based on interviews with Israeli officials, they and American counterparts, including Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s envoy to talks between Israelis and Palestinians on resolving the conflict, have worked out an understanding on settlement construction, the nrg news site reported. The agreement limits construction to the preexisting urban footprint of settlements and forbids the building of outposts, according to nrg.

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