Netanyahu says Israel will limit settlement expansion on behalf of Trump

Andrew Tobin

(JTA) — Israel will curb construction as a gesture to U.S. President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his top ministers.

In a security cabinet meeting Thursday night, Netanyahu said any future construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them. Israel will also prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts, he said.

“This is a very friendly administration and we need to be considerate of the president’s requests,” Netanyahu told the security cabinet, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Also Thursday, the security cabinet approved the first new settlement in decades for families evicted from the razed West Bank outpost of Amona. The newly declared limitations will not apply to that settlement, which Netanyahu promised Amona residents ahead of their forced evacuation in February.

The Prime Minister’s Office also announced the approval of tenders for some 2,000 new settlement homes. Their planned construction was announced in January.

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Netanyahu’s announcement comes as Trump reportedly seeks to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which he has said his Orthodox Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, would help broker. David Greenblatt, Trump’s international envoy and also an Orthodox Jew, has in recent weeks traveled to the Middle East for meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent weeks.

Israeli media reported that during talks with Netanyahu in Israel, Greenblatt told Netanyahu that Trump wanted substantial restriction on settlement construction. The Prime Minister’s Office subsequently denied the reports.

When Netanyahu visited the White house in February, Trump said that he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements a little bit.” Earlier in the month, Trump said settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.