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U.S. Refrains From Condemning Israeli Approval Of New West Bank Homes

The Trump administration refrained from condemning Israel’s approval of the construction of nearly two thousand new housing units in the West Bank, as the White House reportedly readies to present its much-anticipated plan to revive the moribund peace process. Instead of denouncing Jerusalem, a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council stated that “the Israeli government has made clear that going forward its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the [American] president’s concerns into consideration.” While President Donald Trump has assumed a much more lenient approach to the issue than his predecessor Barack Obama’s “not one brick” policy, he has nevertheless described Israeli building in West Bank communities as “unhelpful” and, during a joint press conference last year with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, publicly called on Israel to “hold back on settlements.” According to the Peace Now organization, about half of the latest homes to be advanced will be located outside of the so-called “settlement blocs,” where hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis live and which many therefore maintain will remain part of Israel in any future peace deal. It remains unclear, however, whether any negotiating process can be jump-started given Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ repeated assertion that he will not engage in any U.S.-led initiative; this, after having imposed a boycott on American officials in the wake of President Trump’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.