Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to postpone the planned vote on the controversial Regulation Bill after the White House conveyed messages to the effect that no steps should be taken prior to his meeting with US President Donald Trump next week, Channel 2 News reported on Monday.
Quoting a senior source, the report said the message was conveyed that “you, the right-wing politicians, are pushing Trump into conflict with Israel despite the basic sympathy he feels for Israel.”
It was not clear from the report whether the source was Israeli or American.
This appeared to strengthen reports by Army Radio that Netanyahu told coalition heads Sunday night that he wanted to talk the legislation through with the new US administration first.
But members of the ruling coalition’s far right, especially ministers from the Jewish Home party, vowed to move ahead with the bill’s Monday vote.
During an official visit to London Monday, the prime minister insisted that the vote would take place as planned on Monday night, and that he would be back in Jerusalem in time to take part.
He told reporters that he had updated the US administration about the vote.
“Are they in favor?” he was asked.
“I didn’t say that. I said that I updated them,” he replied, according to Channel 2.
“I never said I want to push it off,” he said from the Foreign Office, where he later met with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. “I act according to the national interests. In my view, you don’t surprise friends. Friends don’t surprise each other. Friends update each other. That’s what I did.”
Sources close to the PM denied there had been messages from the White House to postpone, charging that “there are many people who speak in Trump’s name.”
The Regulation Bill seeks to retroactively legalize several thousand homes in Israeli West Bank settlements built illegally on privately owned Palestinian property and to offer financial compensation to the landowners in a bid to stave off any further demolitions such as the one carried out last week against the illegal Amona outpost.
While the Trump administration has mostly declined to condemn settlement building, the president has reportedly asked Netanyahu not to surprise him with unilateral moves in the West Bank. The issue is expected to be high on the agenda when the two meet in the White House on February 15.
On Thursday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said new settlements “may not be helpful,” after Netanyahu announced he would authorize a new settlement to replace Amona, the first in the West Bank in some 25 years.
The Regulation Bill has faced strident opposition, including from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has warned that it marks the first time Israeli legislation explicitly affirms government support for settlements, and would openly curtail property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that contravenes the protections granted to occupied populations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.