PM said set to seek top ministers’ approval for new settlement
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PM said set to seek top ministers’ approval for new settlement

Despite Trump's request that Israel hold off on West Bank construction, Netanyahu may push ahead Thursday on new site for Amona evacuees

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on March 26, 2017. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on March 26, 2017. Photo by Marc Israel Sellem/POOL

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will seek cabinet backing Thursday to build a new settlement to house the families evicted from the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona last month, Israel’s Channel 2 TV reported Wednesday evening.

The move would fly in the face of US President Donald Trump’s demand of Netanyahu, at their joint press conference last month, that Israel “hold back” on West Bank settlement construction, and despite the failure of several efforts since then to formulate a coordinate Israeli-Us position on settlements.

The security cabinet is set to convene Thursday evening to discuss West Bank settlement construction and the ongoing efforts to reach an understanding with the Trump administration on his government’s settlement policies, Channel 2 reported. It said the prime minister would seek his top ministers’ approval for the new settlement for Amona evacuees, despite not having an agreement with Trump, because he is under considerable pressure from them to honor his obligation to build them a new settlement.

Netanyahu will deliver his first report in three weeks to the security cabinet on the progress of talks with the US Trump administration about limiting West Bank settlement construction, the report said.

Israeli settlers scuffle with security forces at the Amona outpost during an evacuation operation on February 1, 2017. (AFP/Jack GUEZ)
Israeli settlers scuffle with security forces at the Amona outpost during an evacuation operation on February 1, 2017. (AFP/Jack GUEZ)

At a press conference following their first summit in Washington last month, Trump told Netanyahu, “I’d like you to hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

But despite several rounds of discussions, no agreement has yet been reached.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

An unnamed senior Israeli official told the Haaretz newspaper that one of the main gaps that still existed between Israel and the US concerned building of the new settlement for Amona evacuees.

Netanyahu promised the evacuees that he would build a new settlement for them and that the process would begin by the end of March. He has repeated his pledge several times in recent weeks.

To date, Netanyahu has only involved close confidantes in the talks with the US, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is responsible for the bodies that plan and build in the West Bank.

A series of meetings in Washington on the issue last week followed Trump’s special envoy for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt’s trip to the region, 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 Israeli prime minister’s office denied that any such terms had been advanced by Greenblatt.

US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit in Amman, March 28, 2017 ( Wafa / Thair Ghnaim)
US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit in Amman, March 28, 2017 ( Wafa / Thair Ghnaim)

Greenblatt on Wednesday wrapped up his attendance at the Arab League summit in Jordan. On Tuesday, he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is due in Washington in April at the invitation of Trump.

Netanyahu will also brief ministers on Trump’s reported intention to try to launch a new Israeli-Palestinian peace effort soon, the TV report said Wednesday.

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