Settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace, the Trump administration said, its first pronouncement on an issue that has for decades confounded U.S.-Israel relations.
The White House announcement Thursday evening comes a week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced major settlement building initiatives in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
“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 statement said.
Most of the announcements Netanyahu’s government authorised are in existing settlements, but there are patches that would expand settlements, and Cabinet ministers to Netanyahu’s right want to seize on the new friendliness of the Trump administration to expand settlements further and to annex territory.
The Trump White House statement avoids some of the thickets of disagreement that frustrated relations between Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor.
It does not call for a stop on building in existing settlements, an activity that troubled Obama, and it does not call settlements an impediment to peace. That suggests a return to the approach of President George W. Bush who for a period said he could tolerate “natural growth” within existing settlement boundaries.
However, the statement does suggest that a president who has turned over tables in so many other spheres that once bound Democrats and Republicans – friendly outreach to a Russian government both parties have reviled in recent years is probably the best known example – is nonetheless seeking consistency on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
President Donald Trump, who prides himself as a deal-maker, said throughout his campaign that he wants to bring about a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace, and that hope is pronounced in the statement.
“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years,” the statement said. “As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region.”
Trump and Netanyahu are due to meet in two weeks, and the statement said an overarching policy on settlements would not be in place until then.
“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month,” it said.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.