Settler leader blasts lack of new settlement construction

A settler leader vowed that there would be construction in all the West Bank settlements, and expressed frustration that limitations have not been lifted since the January inauguration of US President Donald Trump.

“The decision of the leadership of the Yesha Council is that there will be construction in every settlement. We are longer in the Obama era, and it can’t be that the Trump era is even worse than the Obama era,” Army Radio on Monday quoted Avi Roeh, the leader of the settler umbrella group the Yesha Council, as telling a meeting of the group.

Roeh was responding to an earlier Army Radio report that settler leaders fear the establishment of a brand new settlement for the evacuees of the illegal Amona outpost will lead to reduced construction elsewhere in the West Bank.

Roeh told council members that the group will not tolerate restrictions on where settlement construction can occur.

Despite hopes that the election of Trump would usher in a new period of large-scale settlement construction, the US president told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference at the White House in February that “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/ SAUL LOEB)

Prior to Netanyahu’s meeting with the US president in Washington, Trump told the Israel Hayom daily that “I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace.”

Following the meeting of the two leaders in February, Netanyahu said he was working with the US administration to establish a “mechanism” to coordinate new settlement construction.

However, despite reportedly discussing the issue at length with Trump’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt during his visit to Israel last week, an agreement has yet to be reached on the issue.

Netanyahu has been trying to get the White House’s approval for the construction of a new settlement — the first in some 25 years — to replace the illegal outpost of Amona, which was evacuated and demolished last month.

Last month, he indicated to members of his security cabinet that the government may have to back off the pledge, drawing vociferous protests from the settlers and their allies in the coalition.

Before the meeting with Greenblatt on Thursday, by contrast, Netanyahu vowed that he would fulfill his promise to Amona residents to establish the new settlement.

A general view of a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Nili, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, February 8, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gil Cohen-Magen)

On Sunday, Netanyahu chief of staff Yoav Horowitz traveled to the US in order to continue discussions on the issue with Greenblatt alongside Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.

Since Trump’s inauguration, Israel has approved the construction of some 6,000 news homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, although no new building plans have been announced since Trump’s comments in February.

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