White House: Statements on expanded Israeli settlements hamper peace efforts

by WorldTribune Staff, February 3, 2017

Israel’s announcements of new settlement construction are hampering U.S. President Donald Trump’s efforts at negotiated a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), a White House official said.

The unnamed official told Jerusalem Post on Feb. 2 that Trump has warned Israel to stop its unilateral announcements of new construction in Judea and Samaria.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington of Feb. 15.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced earlier this week the construction of 3,000 new homes in Judea and Samaria.

That announcement came after the approval of 2,500 units last week.

The announcements were heavily criticized by the UN and the European Union, but the Trump administration had been silent on the issue prior to a Feb. 2 statement released by press secretary Sean Spicer, angering senior PA officials.

PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said he was “shocked” by the White House’s silence on Israel’s construction announcement, and called on Trump’s administration to clarify its policy.

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. 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,” Spicer said.

The American official’s comments also come ahead of an upcoming meeting in Washington between Trump and Netanyahu. The White House announced earlier this week that the two leaders will meet on Feb. 15.

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