WASHINGTON (JTA) – U.S. President Donald Trump wants to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about recent settlement expansion plans when they meet next month.
“He wants to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we’ll discuss that,” Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said Tuesday at the daily briefing for reporters when asked about the announcements.
Netanyahu and Trump spoke over the weekend, and Trump invited Netanyahu to the White House next month.
Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman this week said they had given the go-ahead to plans for 2,500 housing units in the West Bank. Additionally, a Jerusalem municipal committee this week approved 566 housing units in Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.
Spicer indicated that Trump, not yet a week in office and still without a secretary of state, is scrambling to set policy on sensitive issues, but is determined to move past the tensions that characterized the Netanyahu government’s relationship with the Obama administration.
“He has asked his team to get together” and study the settlement question, Spicer said. “Israel has continued to be a huge ally of the United States … he wants to get closer with Israel.”
The Obama administration opposed settlements and in its final month for the first time allowed through a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its settlement expansion. The departure of Obama has heartened advocates in Israel of settlement expansion.
On Trump’s campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Spicer said Monday that the new president had not yet decided when to make the move.
Also Monday, reporters asked Spicer if Trump had anything to say about the $221 million that the Obama administration transferred to the Palestinian Authority in its final hours on Friday, defying the wishes of leading Congress members who had put a hold on the funds in part because of concerns that Palestinian officials continue to incite violence against Israel.
Spicer refused to directly address the transfer, saying only that Trump would re-examine all expenditures overseas and domestic.