The White House on Thursday gently warned Israel that new or expanded settlements in the West Bank “may not be helpful” in achieving a Middle East peace, while insisting it has no “official position on settlement activity.”
A statement issued by press secretary Sean Spicer said that although the administration does not believe settlements are “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 American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years,” Spicer’s statement said, a reference to President Donald Trump’s insistence that a return to the Middle East negotiating table is a goal he hopes to achieve.
While the statement carefully parsed it words, it marked a step away from what some Trump officials – and the president’s designated new ambassador to Israel – have said in favor of settlements. Trump’s first foreign call as president was to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he has been sharply critical of former president Barack Obama, whom he characterized as weak on Israel.
The apparent genesis of the statement was a story in Thursday’s Jerusalem Post, which quoted an unnamed senior administration official telling Netanyahu’s government to stop a spree of housing construction approved since Trump’s inauguration, lest it interfere with Trump’s plans to work toward a peace plan. “As the president has expresses many times,” Spicer’s statement said, “he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region.”Read More...
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