President Donald Trump on Thursday warned Israel that constructing new settlements “may not be helpful” to Middle East peace efforts, shifting toward a tougher line with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Still, the White House made clear that the Trump administration “has not taken an official position on settlement activity,” departing from previous administrations that have considered the settlements illegitimate.
Trump has been perceived as sympathetic to the settlements. Shortly before taking office, he vigorously criticized the Obama administration for not vetoing a United Nations Security Council measure condemning settlements.
But in a statement Thursday, the White House said, “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.”
Trump warns Israel: Stop announcing new settlements
WASHINGTON – The White House warned Israel on Thursday to cease settlement announcements that are “unilateral” and “undermining” of President Donald Trump’s effort to forge Middle East peace, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post.
For the first time, the administration confirmed that Trump is committed to a comprehensive two-state solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict negotiated between the parties.
The official told the Post that the White House was not consulted on Israel’s unprecedented announcement of 5,500 new settlement housing units over the course of his first two weeks in office.
“As President Trump has made clear, he is very interested in reaching a deal that would end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is currently exploring the best means of making progress toward that goal,” the official said.
"With that in mind, we urge all parties to refrain from taking unilateral actions that could undermine our ability to make progress, including settlement announcements,” the official added. “The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward.”
Trump plans to bring up the peace process in his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House scheduled for February 15.
This appears one of the first indications of the Trump administrations policy. It sounds reasonably diplomatic.