Netanyahu said to delay settlement planning committee meet at US request

Civil Administration session reportedly pushed back in order to avoid friction with White House ahead of Trump peace envoy’s visit

A photograph of the construction work being done for a new neighborhood in the Ma'ale Amos settlement on June 18, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
A photograph of the construction work being done for a new neighborhood in the Ma'ale Amos settlement on June 18, 2017. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly delayed a meeting of a settlement planning committee at the request of the Trump administration, whose envoy for Middle East peace is set to visit the region this week to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

During a security cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu told ministers the meeting of the Civil Administration Planning Committee would be put off for another week or two in order to avoid friction with the White House during Jason Greenblatt’s visit, the Ynet news site reported.

Actions by the Civil Administration committee have previously been delayed a number of times ahead of sensitive diplomatic events at the request of the Trump administration. Most recently, it delayed the announcement of the agenda for its upcoming meeting, which was set to be published a day before Netanyahu met with US President Donald Trump in New York last week, the Haaretz daily reported.

Greenblatt’s trip comes after Trump met with both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. The White House on Sunday said his visit is meant to “continue the peace track” and is “part of the administration’s quiet, steady discussions towards peace.”

Assistant to US President Donald Trump and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt (left) meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Previous announcements of new settlement construction have led to diplomatic flareups between Jerusalem and Washington, most notably during a visit to Israel by then US vice president Joe Biden in 2010.

Although the Trump administration has avoided responding harshly to announcements of new settlement building, Netanyahu said in March that Israel will curb construction in West Bank settlements as a goodwill gesture to Trump.

During its upcoming meeting, the Civil Administration’s High Planning Committee is set to advance plans for the construction of some 2,000 settlement homes, including issuing tenders for the immediate construction of a number of houses in Beit El, which were promised by Netanyahu after the demolition of a number of buildings in the settlement in 2012, Haaretz reported.

Although Trump reiterated his administration’s commitment to facilitating a peace deal during his meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas last week, he did not publicly broach the issue of settlements, which the Palestinians have maintained are a key impediment to reaching an agreement.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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