Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be reconsidering his promise to build the first new settlement in 25 years, a pledge he made to the residents of the evacuated illegal Amona outpost.
After US President Donald Trump asked Wednesday that Israel “hold back” on settlement building in the West Bank, Netanyahu decided to reevaluate the commitment to the settlers, who were evacuated earlier this month, Channel 2 reported on Thursday.
Under an agreement signed with the government ahead of the evacuation, the Amona residents were allowed to pick a new site to rebuild their community — a first state-sanctioned new settlement to be built in decades.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to Channel 2’s request for comment.
The former residents of Amona said that if the reports were true, they would not let the decision pass without protest. “I believe with all my heart that [Netanyahu] won’t back down from the agreement that he signed,” Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, told Channel 2.
After the prime minister’s meeting Thursday with US Vice President Mike Pence, a member of Netanyahu’s delegation to Washington said, “We [will] formulate as soon as possible the creation of a mechanism to discuss with the White House construction in the settlements, with the intention of reaching an understanding on this matter.”
Netanyahu had responded to Trump’s request to rein in settlement activity on Wednesday by promising that Israel and the US would try to coordinate their positions on construction in the West Bank, “so that we don’t bump into each other on this every time.”
Last week the residents of Amona voted to move to the Geulat Tzion unauthorized outpost, located in the Shiloh settlement bloc. While Amona was built on privately owned Palestinian land, Geulat Tzion lies on a state-owned tract.
According to the deal, the new settlement is to be set up within two months.
At the beginning of February, over the course of two days, thousands of police officers streamed to Amona in order to clear out the 42 families and hundreds of protesters who had barricaded themselves inside the homes and a synagogue there, in compliance with a 2014 court decision.
The evacuated residents of Amona were temporarily housed in the nearby Ofra settlement.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.