Settlers climb on top of a trailer in the West Bank outpost of Amona. (Ariel Schalit / AP)
The Trump administration unexpectedly told the Israeli government this week not to expand the construction of Jewish settlements beyond their current borders in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Such expansion, the White House said in a statement, “may not be helpful in achieving” the goal of peace.
The Trump administration has made other surprising statements in the realm of foreign policy. The New York Times reports:
At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki R. Haley declared that the United States would not lift sanctions against Russia until it stopped destabilizing Ukraine and pulled troops out of Crimea.
On Iran, the administration is preparing economic sanctions similar to those the Obama administration imposed just over a year ago. The White House has also shown no indication that it plans to rip up Mr. Obama’s landmark nuclear deal, despite Mr. Trump’s withering criticism of it during the presidential campaign.
New administrations often fail to change the foreign policies of their predecessors as radically as they promised, in large part because statecraft is so different from campaigning. And of course, today’s positions could shift over time. There is no doubt the Trump administration has staked out new ground on trade and immigration, upending relations with Mexico and large parts of the Muslim world in the process. …
… Mr. Trump presented himself during the campaign as a stalwart supporter of Israel and criticized the Obama administration for allowing the passage of a Security Council resolution in December that condemned Israel for its expansion of settlements.
“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace,” his press secretary, Sean Spicer, said in a statement, “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”
The White House noted that the president “has not taken an official position on settlement activity.” It said he would discuss the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel when they meet Feb. 15, in effect telling Mr. Netanyahu to wait until then. Emboldened by Mr. Trump’s support, Israel has announced more than 5,000 new homes in the West Bank since his inauguration.
Read more here.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly