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Netanyahu: Still no agreement on settlements with Trump

‘Things are not as simple as you think they are’ regarding new construction, PM reportedly tells Likud lawmakers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on February 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on February 27, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told MKs from his ruling Likud party on Monday that he still has not reached an agreement with US President Donald Trump regarding the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements.

Netanyahu said that although he is working with the White House to establish a “mechanism” for coordinating settlement construction, “things are not as simple as you think they are,” unnamed participants in the Likud faction meeting told the Haaretz daily.

Trump’s presidency “is a historic opportunity, but [we] need to know the limits of this opportunity,” Haaretz quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Netanyahu’s comments were reportedly made during a heated argument between Likud lawmakers who support annexing large swaths of the West Bank and those in favor of separating from the Palestinians while still maintaining security control over the area.

Although Netanyahu has expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has refrained from voicing support for a two-state solution of late, as MKs from both Likud and the right-wing Jewish Home party — upon whose support Netanyahu’s coalition depends — have called on him to renounce the two-state solution.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. AFP/ SAUL LOEB)
US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. AFP/ SAUL LOEB)

However, during his visit to Washington Netanyahu said “I don’t want to annex close to 2.5 millions Palestinians to Israel I do not want them to be our subjects,” while also telling Australian Foreign Minister last week while in Australia that Israel will never relinquish security control over the West Bank.

While many on the right celebrated Trump’s election as an opportunity to move ahead with large scale construction in West Bank settlements, the US president told Netanyahu during a joint press conference at the White House that “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

Just days before the prime minister’s visit, Trump also told the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom daily that “I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace,” as “every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left.”

Immediately following the prime minister’s visit to Washington, a senior Israeli official said that although the two sides have yet to reach an agreement on new settlement construction, they will work to establish a “mechanism” for discussing the issue upon Netanyahu’s arrival in Israel following his trip to Singapore and Australia, from which he returned on Sunday.

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