Israeli Leader Set to Approve First New Settlement in Decades


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The Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Thursday that he will approve the establishment of a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in decades.

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Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency

JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said on Thursday that he would approve the establishment of a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in more than two decades, despite a request from President Trump last month to hold off on settlement activity.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Netanyahu had received a green light from the White House for Thursday’s announcement. Mr. Trump’s public request to hold off on settlements came during a meeting between the two leaders at the White House last month, after a series of moves by the Israeli leader to approve thousands of new housing units in the occupied West Bank.

The United States has long considered the settlements an obstacle to peace, and the Palestinians and much of the world consider them a violation of international law.

But it was not immediately clear whether the establishment of the new settlement was meant to be a provocative move to scuttle any prospect of a revival of peace talks. Mr. Netanyahu said he was following through on a pledge he made a few weeks ago to 40 settler families who were evacuated from the illegal hilltop outpost of Amona. That outpost was removed by court order because it was built on privately owned Palestinian land.

“I promised at the outset that we would build a new community,” Mr. Netanyahu told reporters. “I believe that I first gave that promise back in December, and we will uphold it today. In a few hours, you will know all the details.”

Some Israeli analysts have speculated that the move could be a one-off gesture meant to appease advocates for settlements before Mr. Netanyahu acquiesces to the Trump administration’s call for restraint as part of its push to revive long-stalled peace talks. In Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s recent flurry of settlement announcements has widely been seen as catering to the right wing of his governing coalition.

For years, Israel refrained from establishing new settlements, under pressure from previous American administrations and in deference to peace efforts with the Palestinians. But it has continued to expand existing ones.

In addition, Israel recently passed contentious legislation paving the way for the retroactive legalization of settlement outposts that were built without government authorization on private Palestinian land. The law is intended to prevent future evacuations like that of Amona.

Israel and the White House have been negotiating for weeks to try to reach an understanding on slowing or curbing settlement construction in the West Bank — so far, by all accounts, without conclusion.

Mr. Netanyahu has described as inaccurate recent reports in the Israeli news media about a formula that would confine activity to settlement blocks that Israel intends to keep under any territorial agreement with the Palestinians, possibly in return for land swaps.

“I would like to make it clear that there is much in these reports that is not true,” Mr. Netanyahu said in remarks before his cabinet meeting this week. “I will not go into details. Our talks with the White House are continuing; I hope they will conclude quickly.”

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