The Trump administration did not condemn Israel for its announced plans to build housing units in Judea and Samaria. A new era?
There was no comment from the White House following Israel’s announcement on Tuesday that it had authorized construction of 2,500 housing units in various locations in Judea and Samaria.
Responding to a question during Tuesday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the administration was still forming its foreign policy team and that building in Judea and Samaria, among other issues, will be discussed when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington next month.
“Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States. He [Trump] wants to grow closer with Israel to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East, and that’s what he’s going to do. We’re going to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We’ll continue to discuss that,” Spicer stated.
This response is a notable departure from the policies championed by the Obama administration, which repeatedly condemned Israel for building in its capital and in Judea and Samaria.
Associated Press quoted US officials who said that the response was not intended as a signal of any particular shift in policy. Instead, they said, it reflected the Trump administration’s plan to get its full foreign policy team in place before making a judgment.
Europeans and Palestinians Condemn Israel
The Europeans have not changed their policy and immediately condemned Israel’s announcement.
According to the European Union (EU), the construction “seriously undermines the prospects for peace with the Palestinians.”
In a statement, the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) said Israel’s plans “further seriously undermine the prospects for a viable two-state solution. It is regrettable that Israel is proceeding with this policy, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels.”
“Continued settlement expansion, illegal under international law as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334, goes directly against long-standing EU policy and the recommendations of the Quartet Report. A negotiated two-state solution is the only way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties and to achieve enduring peace,” the statement read.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi also slammed the plans.
“Once again, the Israeli government has proved that it is more committed to land theft and colonialism than to the two-state solution and the requirements for peace and stability,” she stated. “It is evident that Israel is exploiting the inauguration of the new American administration to escalate its violations and the prevention of any existence of a Palestinian state.”
Netanyahu: We Will Continue to Build
The plans were approved just days after the municipality of Jerusalem approved the construction of 566 new homes in northern portions of city. It is also expected to launch discussions regarding the authorization of 5,600 additional housing units in both northern and southern areas of the city.
Israel had refrained from construction and development in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for several years for fear of blowback from former President Barack Obama and his administration, which repeatedly criticized Israeli “settlement” activity.
Now that Donald Trump, who appears more supportive of Israel’s presence in these areas, has entered office, Israel is expected to push for massive development in its capital and in Judea and Samaria.
“We are building and will continue to do so,” Netanyahu stated.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News