Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced at his security cabinet meeting last week that he will be curbing settlement construction, in accordance with the Trump administration’s request that Israel carry out goodwill gestures towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“There are no understandings with the Americans and this wasn’t agreed one with the administration, but rather these are restrictions that Israel is taking upon itself in response to the president’s request,” a minister present at the meeting told Haaretz. “In any case, the ‘payment’ to the Americans isn’t over.”
The halting of settlement construction appears to be a goodwill gesture not only to the Palestinians, but to Trump as well. During a Washington meeting with Netanyahu in February, Trump urged the Prime Minister to “hold back” on settlement activity. The President also expressed openness to the possibility of a one-state solution, a sharp break from the policy of his predecessors.
Though he appeared to give in to Trump’s request Thursday, Netanyahu had on the same day approved the construction of a West Bank settlement as compensation for Amona, an Israeli settlement evacuated in February.
“We note that the Israeli Prime Minister made a commitment to the Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations,” the State Department said last week, according to Haaretz, adding that Israel had said it would “take Trump’s concerns into consideration.”
At Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said Israel would not halt settlement activity entirely but would continue building within areas that had already been developed. Netanyahu also clarified that no new illegal outposts would be created. Netanyahu added that Israel would allow construction adjacent to areas already developed in cases where construction in previously developed areas was not possible.
“This is a very friendly administration and we need to take his [Trump’s] requests into consideration,” Netanyahu reportedly told ministers at the meeting.