Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks deal with Donald Trump on settlement construction

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump.image courtesy :The Times of Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expects to reach understandings with the United States within a few weeks on curbing construction in the settlements, according to an Israeli official.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, he was in discussions with Donald Trump’s administration on ways to move ahead with settlement construction ahead of fresh talks with a top adviser to the US president.

An Israeli government-sanctioned settlement would be the first official new settlement in more than 20 years and would surely draw intense international criticism.

Construction in recent years has involved expanding existing settlements in the West Bank, with many countries warning it is gradually eating away at any chance of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

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“This afternoon I will meet again with President Trump’s envoy, Jason Greenblatt,” Netanyahu told ministers at the start of a cabinet meeting in remarks relayed by his office.

“We are in the midst of a process of dialogue with the White House and our intention is to reach an agreed-upon policy regarding settlement construction,” Netanyahu said. “Agreed-upon for us, of course, not just for the American side.

Greenblatt’s visit to the region marks the Trump administration’s dive into the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the new US president said he intended to resolve.

Netanyahu and Greenblatt met in Jerusalem on Monday, where the two discussed ways to reach peace and settlement construction.

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But the head of Israel’s opposition Zionist Union, Isaac Herzog, praised Trump’s dedication and efforts following a meeting with Greenblatt Thursday.

“I was impressed by the depth of the commitment expressed by Jason Greenblatt in President Trump’s name to the need to reach an agreement between us and the Palestinians, and by the extent of his meetings with all involved elements from both sides,” Herzog said.

“Despite past failures, I welcome the new effort of the Trump administration”, he said in a statement.

The visit comes after Trump cast uncertainty over years of international efforts to foster a two-state solution to the conflict when he met Netanyahu at the White House last month.

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At that meeting, Trump broke with decades of US policy by saying he was not bound to a two-state solution to the conflict and would be open to one state if it meant peace.

In his Thursday remarks, Netanyahu stressed his committment to build a new West Bank community for the Amona settlers.

“To the residents of Amona, I reiterate: I gave you a promise to build a new community and I will honour that commitment,” he said.

Israel media said the construction of a new settlement was part of discussions on Monday between Greenblatt and Netanyahu.