JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to keep his promise to build the first new official West Bank settlement in two decades amid discussions with a U.S. envoy on reviving the peace process with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu met with U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt for a second time this week on Thursday to try to reach an agreement on settlements, one of the most contentious issues in decades-old peace efforts.
The Israeli leader said they "made progress on the issue of Israeli settlement construction" and "discussed concrete measures that could help support and advance Palestinian economic development," without providing further details.
The Palestinians view the building of settlements on land they want for their future state as one of the main obstacles to peace, a position largely supported by the international community.
U.S. President Donald Trump voiced support for Israel's position on the campaign trail but has since asked it to "hold off" on settlement construction as he seeks to restart the peace process, which last collapsed in 2014.
Ahead of the meeting with Greenblatt, Netanyahu said reaching an understanding with Washington on the settlements would be "good for Israel." But he also said he would honor a promise made last month to build a new settlement to replace Amona, an illegal settlement outpost built on private Palestinian land that was dismantled following an Israeli Supreme Court ruling.
Greenblatt also met with the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha council, which represents the settlements. The council said it was a "fruitful and positive" meeting, without providing further details.
Trump campaigned on promises that he would depart from decades of U.S. foreign policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
His platform made no mention of Palestinian statehood, a key goal of the U.S. and international diplomacy for more than two decades, and he vowed to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to disputed Jerusalem.
However, he seems to have backed off on both since assuming office. At a White House meeting with Netanyahu last month, Trump said he was open to a two-state solution and urged restraint on settlement construction. Plans to move the embassy appear to have been put on hold.
The international community views settlements built in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — territories seized by Israel during the 1967 war and claimed by the Palestinians as part of their future state — as illegal.
Israel says the issue of settlements should be resolved along with other core disputes in direct peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
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