Israel to slow West Bank construction in deference to Trump’s request

President Donald Trump (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met February 15 in the White House. Netanyahu announced a slowdown in construction of new settlements in the West Bank on Thursday in deference to Trump's views on a Middle East peace process. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

March 31 (UPI) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a slowdown of West Bank settlement construction out of respect for President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu said, in reference to the Trump White House, “This is a very friendly administration and we need to take his requests into consideration,” The Washington Post reported Friday, citing the Israeli publication Haaretz.

The Israeli construction of communities in the West Bank for Jewish settlers remains a controversial practice; it has been criticized as illegal by the United Nations and by governments, including the Obama administration. It is regarded as an impediment to a two-state solution in the Middle East, and Palestinians in the West Bank consider it an expansion of Israel into what they consider their future homeland.

Trump urged Netanyahu to slow the building of West Bank communities when they met in February, and Netanyahu later said it was a topic on which the two leaders did not see “eye to eye.” Trump has suggested the revival of a two-state solution, a nation for Palestine adjacent to the existing nation of Israel, could be the most viable option for peace, and has advocated the resumption of discussions.

Netanyahu’s position is complicated by right-wing politicians within Israel who are eager to see additional expansion into the West Bank. There have been no new settlements built in recent years, but existing settlement have grown.

Israel’s new policy came after a Cabinet decision to construct a new settlement in the West Bank, the first in 20 years, to replace the community of Amona, which was demolished in February after Israel’s Supreme Court determined it was illegally built on land proven to be owned by Palestinians. An Israeli government commitment to build a new community nearby for the 40 families evicted from Amona was part of the settlement agreement. Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel would continue increasing the number of housing units of existing West Bank settlements, projects approved prior to the start of the Trump administration.

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