Israel and the US are close to reaching an understanding on settlement construction that would see Jerusalem commit to construction limits in return for being allowed the build the first new settlement in 25 years, Channel 2 reported Saturday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to build a new settlement for the residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, which was evacuated in January, but has encountered resistance from the administration of US President Donald Trump.
Netanyahu’s office denied the report as “not true.”
The report comes amid mounting speculation on the outcome after four days of high-level discussions between the administration and an Israeli delegation, which concluded Thursday.
The Channel 2 report, which called the purported understandings “the Trump formula,” followed a report in The New York Times, which said that Israel is expected to make a general commitment to the Trump administration to slow settlement construction, but will likely not commit to numbers or specific areas.
After the Washington talks, the White House believes it is currently unrealistic to expect Jerusalem to provide a more substantial pledge, officials told the Times.
The administration indicated Thursday that the talks had not led to any concrete agreement on Israel’s ongoing settlement construction.
“The United States delegation reiterated President Trump’s concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement,” according to a joint readout of the talks. “The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration.”
The two sides said they will continue to engage in dialogue over Israel’s continued building in disputed areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. They described the discussions as “serious and constructive, and they are ongoing.”
Also Friday UN envoy to the region Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that Israel has taken no steps to comply with a Security Council call to stop settlement activity and instead authorized “a high rate” of settlement expansions in violation of international law.
The large number of settlement announcements and legislation action by Israel indicate “a clear intent to continue expanding the settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territory,” he said.
The series of meetings in Washington this past week followed Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt’s trip to the region last week, in which he met with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to try and jumpstart peace talks.
In those talks in Jerusalem, Greenblatt reportedly demanded that Israel halt all construction in isolated West Bank settlements and put curbs on new building inside the major settlement blocs, but Netanyahu was said to have rejected the idea. An official in the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday denied that any such terms had been advanced by Greenblatt.
Greenblatt led the US delegation to this week’s follow-up talks along with other representatives of the National Security Council staff and State Department, including Michael Ratney. The Israeli delegation was led by Yoav Horowitz, Netanyahu’s chief of staff, and Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
Other topics of discussion included boosting the Palestinian economy in the West Bank and reconstruction of vital infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.