from The Wall Street Journal,
The prime minister’s office said Mr. Netanyahu anticipates discussing the issue with President Trump later this month.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday took a conciliatory tone in response to the White House statement that said Israel’s settlement construction “may not be helpful” in achieving peace with the Palestinians.
“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,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement Thursday. The comments appeared to soften previously pro-Israel stances and signal that the White House could take a tougher line on settlement construction.
Mr. Netanyahu reiterated that he looked forward to a scheduled meeting with President Donald Trump on Feb. 15 to discuss “a wide range of issues, including this one,” according to a statement from his office.
In recent weeks, Israel has approved more than 6,000 new housing units in communities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank that much of the international community considers illegal and an impediment to peace with the Palestinians. The announcements have drawn scathing rebukes from Palestinian officials.
Israeli lawmakers and settlers on Friday appeared confused by whether the comments indicated that the White House was for or against settlements.
“The White House itself holds that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and they never have been,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a statement Friday. “It must be concluded therefore that expansion of construction is not the problem.”
“The Yesha council thanks the White House for asserting that our communities were never an impediment to peace,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy for the council, which represents the 430,000 Israeli residents of the West Bank.
“I would not categorize this as a U-turn by the U.S. administration, but the issue is clearly on their agenda,” Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, told Israeli media. “We will not always agree on everything.”
Hours before the White House statement Thursday, Israel cleared the West Bank settlement outpost of Amona of about 40 families, along with hundreds of protesters. Israel’s high court in 2014 ordered that the outpost should be evacuated, saying parts had been constructed on Palestinian land.
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