The Trump administration said on Thursday that Israel’s building of new Jewish communities or expansion of existing ones in Judea and Samaria may not be helpful in achieving peace with the Palestinian Authority.
In a statement issued two weeks before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit US President Donald Trump, the White House said the administration “has not taken an official position on settlement activity.”
Trump has signaled he could be more accommodating toward Jewish communities projects than his predecessor Obama. The latest statement reflects slightly more nuanced language on how the new administration views Jewish communities.
“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal,” the White House said in a statement.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by phone with Netanyahu on Thursday, the State Department said. It did not say whether they discussed the White House statement.
The White House statement came as Israel has announced the construction of new housing units in Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria. On Wednesday, it said it would establish a new community, the first since the late 1990s. It also announced plans for the construction of 3,000 more homes in Judea and Samaria, the third such declaration in less than two weeks since Trump took office.
An announcement a week ago by Israel that it would build some 2,500 more dwellings in Judea and Samaria, drew rebukes from the Palestinian Authority and the European Union.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Friday it was too early to tell how the White House’s latest statement on Israel’s recent drive to build new homes in Judea-Samaria would affect future building.
It was a first reaction by an Israeli official to the statement in Washington.
“It’s still too early to tell … I would not categorize this as a U-turn by the US administration but the issue is clearly on their agenda … the issue will be discussed when the prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu) meets the president in Washington,” Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon told Israel Radio.
“We will not always agree on everything.”
The Yesha council said Friday it looks forward to working with the Trump administration.