Netanyahu to seek green light for new settlement in Trump envoy visit: report
SAUL LOEB (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reportedly seek a green light from US president Donald Trump's adviser on international negotiations Jason Greenblatt for building a new West Bank settlement promised as compensation for evicted residents of the Amona outpost.
According to a report by Israel's Channel 2 television, Netanyahu intends to propose construction of a new settlement to be named "Geulat Tzion" in the central West Bank during Greeblatt's visit to Israel on Monday.
Netanyahu promised the creation of a new settlement to house evicted residents of Amona in exchange for a peaceful evacuation. If carried out, the new settlement would be the first established by Israel in more than 20 years.
The prime minister will frame the settlement as a "replacement" for Amona residents as opposed to a "new" settlement, Channel 2 said, in an effort to soften the controversy surrounding the proposal.
Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, begins an official visit to the region on Monday. He is slated to meet with Netanyahu as well as President Reuven Rivlin and leader of the opposition Isaac Herzog, before visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday.
The stated goal of the visit is to discuss restarting peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The American embassy in Israel issued an official statement on Sunday stating that discussions regarding Trump's campaign promise to relocating the embassy to Jerusalem will not be a part of this visit.
The visit is primarily intended to help to formulate the Trump administration's policy on West Bank settlements, including what the US will accept in terms of construction, Channel 2 reported last week.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, reiterated his position that brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal must include both land and population trades, urging Greenblatt to "learn lessons from the past."
"The first takeaway is that any attempt to solve the Palestinian issue on the basis of land for peace will be dead on arrival," Lieberman wrote in a statement posted to his Facebook page on Monday.
"The only way to reach a sustainable solution is land swaps and population transfers as part of a general regional agreement. It can’t be that there will be a Palestinian state without any Jews — 100 percent Palestinian — and alongside that Israel will be a binational state with 22% Palestinians," he wrote.
Lieberman's plan calls for transferring a number of Arab towns currently in Israel to what would be the future Palestinian state, while extending sovereignty to Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank.
"There is no reason that Sheikh Raed Salah, Ayman Odeh, Basel Ghattas or Haneen Zoabi should continue to be citizens of Israel," Lieberman's statement added, referring to the head of the outlawed northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and members of the Arab Joint List political faction.
Ghattas hit back at Lieberman's statement, saying that "a migrant from Moldova doesn't understand what it means to be born in your land, and in any agreement in the future, there is no room for settlers stealing the land of the Palestinian state, and no room for despicable racist migrants like [Lieberman]."
Netanyahu has come under pressure by his right-wing coalition government not to accept any curbs on settlement construction, and to move forward with extending Israeli sovereignty over existing settlement blocs in the West Bank.
But Netanyahu has indicated he would consider Trump's request to "hold back" on settlements, saying that the two leaders have "agreed to continue those discussions [on settlement construction] and to work out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security."
"If there’s a request to examine this issue from so friendly a president, I think it’s appropriate to make the effort,” Netanyahu said on the matter.
Israeli settlements are seen as a major stumbling block to peace efforts, as they are built on land the Palestinians consider part of their future state.
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