In Surprise Move, Trump Warns Israel Against Settlements

03 Feb
10:51 PM

The Israeli settlement of Tzofim seen behind amputated olive trees near Qalqilya, in the occupied West Bank, 15 January. Hundreds of olive trees on private Palestinian agricultural land were cut as part of an Israeli plan to build a bypass road for settlers in the area.

Keren ManorActiveStills

The administration of US President Donald Trump surprised many observers on Thursday by issuing a public warning to Israel over its accelerating construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years,” the White House said in a statement from press secretary Sean Spicer. “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 reiterated that Trump “hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region.” He added that the “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.”

Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to be in Washington on 15 February for what will now be a closely watched meeting for any signs of tension with Trump.

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