Netanyahu meets with US envoys for peace talks ‘check-in’
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Netanyahu meets with US envoys for peace talks ‘check-in’

Senior Trump administration official says new Israeli legislation to expand Jerusalem's municipal boundaries was not discussed

L-R: US President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)
L-R: US President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

United States Special Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his Jerusalem office Sunday as part of the Trump administration’s continued efforts to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.

A senior US official told The Times of Israel the meeting was “a general check-in on peace conversations.”

The official said the controversial proposed Israeli legislation to expand the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to include West Bank settlements was not discussed.

Greenblatt has traveled to the region numerous times to meet with Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Jordanian officials on a new peace push, whose parameters have not yet been announced. The Trump administration has openly made clinching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a priority, while stressing negotiations would take time and refraining from strong criticism of Israeli settlement activity.

Earlier Sunday, a Trump administration official found fault with the “Greater Jerusalem” bill, which was removed from the agenda of a key ministerial panel  on Saturday night at the prodding of the US.

“It’s fair to say that the US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions,” the US official told The Times of Israel.

The statement came hours after coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) told Army Radio a vote on the bill in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday was delayed because “there is American pressure claiming this is annexation.”

The proposed bill calls for expanding the Jerusalem municipal boundaries to include four major settlements and a settlement bloc in the West Bank that are home to more than 100,000 Israelis. It aims to solidify the city’s Jewish majority, but stops short of formal annexation, making the practical implications unclear. The bill says the communities would be considered “daughter municipalities” of Jerusalem.

Under the same proposal, some 100,000 Palestinians living in neighborhoods outside the security barrier would be removed from the city’s census and given a new municipality.

Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group, says the bill would amount to “de facto annexation,” and be a clear step toward full annexation of the West Bank.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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