Israel’s defense chief: Reach understanding with Trump team on settlement building

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s defense minister said his country should reach an agreement with the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to freeze building in isolated West Bank settlements in exchange for continued building in settlement blocs.

Avigdor Liberman made the remarks on Wednesday at a briefing with reporters, the first since his Yisrael Beiteinu party joined the ruling government coalition in May.

Lieberman also said that Trump’s advisers have sent official messages to the Israeli government asking that it stop commenting on Israeli expectations for the administration’s future policies regarding Israel.

“I hope that we have enough sense to stop the jubilation and public enthusiasm. It is undoubtedly damaging,” Liberman said.

“In the messages we received from the Trump team, they asked us to act modestly. We will wait and we won’t establish facts on the ground.”

Liberman said the government should concentrate on having the new Trump administration ratify the Bush-Sharon formula, under which then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon committed Israel to the two-state solution and to refrain from building outside of major settlement blocs.

He called concentrating settlement construction on the areas where 80 percent of the settlers live a “good thing,” though Liberman acknowledged that such a policy would not help him politically.

Speaking about a controversial bill to legalize some West Bank outposts, notably Amona, Liberman said: “I’m not certain that it’s the best solution,” and added he believes it will be impossible to avoid evacuating the outpost as per a Supreme Court ruling.

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