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June 23, 2017 6:06 pm

Israeli Official Denies Report Deal Was Reached With US to Freeze Settlement Construction Until End of 2017

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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An Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

An Israeli government official denied on Friday a report that an agreement had been reached with the Trump administration to refrain from issuing any tenders for new construction projects in the West Bank until the end of this year.

“There is no restriction,” the Hebrew news site nrg quoted the official as saying. “The fact is 300 housing units were approved in Beit El (a settlement north of Ramallah)…and there will be more.”

Israeli rightists had reacted with anger to an earlier nrg report of the implementation of a settlement-building freeze. The chairmen of the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus — Likud MK Yoav Kisch and HaBayit HaYehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich — said in a statement that construction in the West Bank was Israel’s “insurance policy against the danger of a Palestinian state.”

As part of its effort to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Trump administration has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to restrain settlement construction. At a joint White House press conference in February, President Donald Trump told Netanyahu, “I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu met with top Trump aides Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt in Jerusalem. The two American officials went to Ramallah the following day for a sit-down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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