Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly try to seek approval to build a new West Bank settlement as compensation for the residents of the evacuated Amona outpost during meetings with a top adviser to US President Donald Trump.
According to a Channel 2 TV report, the prime minister will present Jason Greenblatt with plans for a new West Bank settlement, one that he promised the residents of Amona ahead of their court-ordered evacuation in exchange for a peaceful evacuation of the hilltop community.
Netanyahu intends to propose that the new West Bank community — to be named “Geulat Tzion” — be built between the settlements of Shiloh and Shvut Rachel in the central West Bank.
However, recognizing the sensitivity of establishing the first new settlement in over two decades, the prime minister will try and tell Greenblatt that Geulat Tzion will be a “replacement” settlement for Amona and not a “new” one, Channel 2 said.
Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, is visiting the region this week for talks on West Bank settlement policy and the peace process with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
The goal of Greenblatt’s visit is reportedly to formulate the Trump administration’s position on settlements, including what the US will accept in terms of where and how much Israel can build, and to arrange Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to Washington. Abbas was invited to the White House by Trump in a phone call on Friday.
It is unclear if Netanyahu’s technicalities will appease Trump, who publicly asked him last month to “hold back” on the settlements.
Both Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have recently tried to curb the discussion of settlements, with the understanding that the issue could cause tension with Washington.
A month ago, Netanyahu promised residents of Amona that he would build them the first new West Bank settlement in 25 years, and vowed that construction would begin no later than the end of March.
However, later last month, after a meeting with Trump, Netanyahu reportedly told members of his security cabinet that the government may have to renege on his pledge.
Acting State Department spokesperson Mark Toner last week referred to Trump’s comment, saying Washington was “in discussions with Israel about how exactly that would look like. It’s under consideration.”
Since Trump’s election, some Likud and Jewish Home MKs have ramped up calls for the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim and other settlements, and recently, Likud MK Miki Zohar called for full Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
Last Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he had received a direct message from the US saying that “Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank means an immediate crisis with the new administration.”
Last week also saw the first phone conversation between Trump and Abbas. Trump invited Abbas to the White House for a visit and assured the Palestinian leader of his commitment to an “authentic” peace process.
Palestinian officials said that their talks with Greenblatt would focus on preparations for Abbas’s visit to Washington
Honored to be meeting with Israelis and Palestinians this week as I travel to the region. Follow me for updates on the trip!
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) March 12, 2017
Sources told the TV channel the “strategic location” for the replacement community was chosen in an effort to establish a continuity of Jewish settlements all along the section of Route 5, a major east-west highway that traverses the West Bank.
According to the report, the placement of Geulat Tzion indicates the settlement movement is willing to split the West Bank into a northern and southern blocs.