US: ‘Unrestrained’ Israeli construction does not help peace

The Trump administration expressed concern following the latest Israeli approval of construction in Judea and Samaria.

“Unrestrained” Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria “does not help advance the peace process,” the US State Department stated.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, State Department Spokeswomen Heather Nauert was asked about the recent Israeli announcement that it approved 2,500 units in Judea and Samaria for construction.

President Donald Trump has “talked about this consistently, and he has said, in his opinion, unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance the peace process,” she replied. “He’s been pretty clear about that. It doesn’t help the prospect for peace. That is something that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is important to this administration, and they will keep promoting that.”

The Netanyahu government has approved the construction of over 8,000 units in total since Trump entered office in January. However, that does not mean the units will necessarily be built.

There has been dialogue between Jerusalem and Washington on the issue, and the general guidelines are reportedly that Trump does not oppose all Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria nor perceive the building as an obstacle to peace. It appears he is opposed only to massive, “unrestrained” construction as well as building in remote areas thinly populated by Israelis.

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US Unaware Abbas Willing to Drop Preconditions

Referring to reports in the Israeli press that Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas has temporarily relinquished his longstanding demand for Israel to freeze its construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as a prerequisite to the restarting of the diplomatic process with Israel, Nauert said she was unaware of “any diplomatic conversations about that very topic.”

The European Union (EU) on Friday joined the US by stating that Israel’s construction approval “further complicate[s] the prospects for a viable two-state solution.”

“Israel’s continued policy of settlement expansion is illegal under international law. The EU calls on both sides to engage in a meaningful process in view of reaching a negotiated two-state solution and reiterates its readiness to support them, together with its international and regional partners. This is the only way to fulfill the legitimate aspirations of both parties and to achieve just and lasting peace,” the EU said in a statement.

Liberman Claims Surge in Construction

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman lauded Israel’s government for its robust construction in Judea and Samaria.

Speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, he said that what the government approved last week was the maximum that could be approved.

“The figures speak for themselves, down to the level of detail of a single family unit: only last week, on June 6 and 7, a total of 3,651 housing units were approved, of them 671 for immediate construction,” he said.

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“From 1 January 2017 to the present, a total of 8,345 houses have been approved, of which 3,066 are for immediate construction, and the figures for the first half of 2017 are the highest since 1992,” he continued.

“Whoever claims that it was possible to do more is not stretching the rope to the limit, but tearing it apart completely and thus endangering the entire settlement enterprise. There never was and never will be a better government to take care of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria and develop it,” he concluded.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News