World Bulletin / News Desk
The U.S. on Thursday urged Israel to hold off on new settlement construction, saying new building in the Israeli-occupied West Bank "may" impede efforts to broker an elusive Palestinian-Israeli peace.
"While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement.
Spicer stressed that President Donald Trump has not taken an official position on Israel's settlement construction and looks forward to addressing the matter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a planned Feb. 15 White House visit.
The statement comes shortly after Trump met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. During the meeting, Trump “thanked the King for his leadership in promoting peace and stability in the region”, according to the executive mansion.
The White House's settlement comments appear to stand in stark contrast to past signaling by Trump in which he has appeared to be more amenable to settlement construction than the Barack Obama administration.
Israeli authorities on Tuesday night approved the construction of 3,000 new units in the West Bank after approving last week construction of 3,066 Jewish homes in East Jerusalem and West Bank.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity on the land as illegal.
Roughly 500,000 Israelis now live in more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank and east Jerusalem in 1967.
The Palestinians want these areas -- along with the Gaza Strip -- for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.