Politics

Trump Warns Israel That New Settlements May Not Advance Peace

The Trump administration asserted that the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, but stopped short of taking an official position on settlement activity.

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years,” the White House said in a statement Thursday evening.

“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,” the statement said.

While Trump has reaffirmed his commitment to a strong Israeli-U.S. relationship, he is using language that Republican presidential candidates generally avoid.

“A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” the president said in a December, 2015, interview with the Associated Press. “They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m OK with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal,” Trump stated.

In 1983, the Jewish National Fund awarded Donald Trump the “Tree of Life Award,” for his outstanding community involvement and dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship. Trump regularly mentioned his role as Grand Marshall in the 2004 Israel Day parade throughout his campaign.

The issue of settlements has been a major obstacle to peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Israeli settlements are built on land that Palestinians and many in the international community consider part of a theoretical future Palestinian state (complicated by seemingly endless violence and an unwillingness on some in Palestine to recognize the right of Israel to exist).

Palestinians demand a freeze on settlement construction before peace talks can resume, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that the growth is merely expansion within existing settlements.

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions,” the White House said. The statement concluded by indicating that the administration looks forward to its meeting with Netanyahu in mid-February.

Netanyahu will visit the White House Feb. 15, after accepting an invitation from the president in late January.

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