Most observers quickly understood that when President Donald Trump made his apparent quip to visiting Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a bit” the depth of disagreement between Jerusalem and the new Washington regime was far greater than it was being allowed to appear amid the warmth and fuzziness of the White House press conference that was taking place even before the two leaders had a chance to meet. What Trump muttered came after his most celebrated – or vilified – campaign promises regarding Israel and the Palestinians had clearly been pushed aside: moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem certainly was no longer the first item of business; acknowledging Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem was not even being mentioned; and the willingness to tolerate building in settlements was not something to discuss at the meeting with the press. So it came as no surprise that attendees at a closed meeting of lawmakers from Netanyahu’s Likud Party reported that the PM acknowledged the issue of settlements now ranks as the first issue termed “disagreement” by Netanyahu. He asserted that efforts were underway to create a mechanism to deal with the inevitable differences of opinion that will emerge between the two governments, but “on this specific issue, there is no agreement.” The Prime Minister was apparently silent when Deputy Foreign Minister Hotoveley “demanded” that he tell his faction exactly what he promised President Trump on the matter of settlements.
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