White House unfazed by Netanyahu pledge not to evacuate settlements
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White House unfazed by Netanyahu pledge not to evacuate settlements

Trump team will continue to push for peace, senior official says, though Palestinians call PM's comments 'provocations'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attend an event marking 50 years of Israeli settlements in Samaria, in Barkan, in the West Bank, on August 28, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara attend an event marking 50 years of Israeli settlements in Samaria, in Barkan, in the West Bank, on August 28, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to not evacuate any further Israeli settlements in the West Bank ruffled few feathers in Washington on Tuesday, with the White House saying it would not derail efforts to restart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

On Monday, at an event celebrating 50 years of Israeli settlements in Samaria — the biblical name for the northern West Bank — Netanyahu told a crowd of thousands, “We are here to stay forever. There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.” His speech came days after he met with a high-level White House delegation seeking to bring the sides back to the negotiating table.

“It is no secret what each side’s position is on this issue,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday. “Our focus is on continuing our conversations with both parties and regional leaders to work towards facilitating a deal that factors in all substantive issues.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, denounced Netanyahu’s remarks and urged the Trump administration to intervene.

“This is an Israeli message to the US administration, which sought through an important tour in the area to do something in order to rescue the peace process,” he told the Associated Press. “We call upon the US administration to deal with these provocations,” which he said impede US peace efforts and are “an attempt to return things to square one.”

Last week, Abbas and Netanyahu separately met with Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell.

After the delegation met with Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, where Kushner told the prime minister that Trump is “very committed” to help broker a peace deal, Netanyahu responded by saying he believed peace with the Palestinians was “within our reach.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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