The Trump administration did not condemn Israel for its announced plans to build housing units in Judea and Samaria, and the Palestinians are deeply upset.
The Trump administration did not denounce Israel for its announcement on Tuesday that it had authorized construction of 2,500 housing units in various locations in Judea and Samaria. The lack of a condemnation from the US has greatly aggravated the Palestinians, who have grown accustomed to an automatic denunciation from the Obama administration to Israeli building activity in the region.
Responding on Wednesday to the White House refusal to condemn Israel, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat told AFP, “We used to hear condemnations, we used to hear American positions saying [Israel] should stop settlement activities, [that] it’s an obstacle to peace.’”
“Not commenting, does that mean that President Trump is encouraging… settlement activities? We need an answer from the American administration,” he demanded.
According to AFP, Erekat said he was “shocked” that the White House did not comment on the announcement, adding that Israel had been emboldened by “what they consider encouragement by American President Donald Trump.”
With lack of a negative US stance towards Israel, Erekat called on the “international community” to take action. “The international community must hold Israel accountable immediately for what it is doing,” he declared.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the administration was still forming its foreign policy team and that building in Judea and Samaria, among other issues, will be discussed when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington next month.
“Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States. He [Trump] wants to grow closer with Israel to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East, and that’s what he’s going to do. We’re going to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We’ll continue to discuss that,” Spicer stated.
This response is a notable departure from the policies championed by the Obama administration, which repeatedly condemned Israel for building in its capital and in Judea and Samaria.
Israel had refrained from construction and development in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for several years for fear of blowback from former President Barack Obama and his administration, which repeatedly criticized Israeli “settlement” activity.
Now that Donald Trump, who appears more supportive of Israel’s presence in these areas, has entered office, Israel is expected to push for massive development in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
“We are building and will continue to do so,” Netanyahu asserted.