(JTA) – Negotiations between Israel and the United States on limiting building in the settlements reportedly has been suspended after representatives of the two countries failed to reach an agreement.
Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s international envoy and an Orthodox Jew, has travelled in recent weeks to the Middle East for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Representatives of the Netanyahu government, the prime minister’s chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, met in Washington late last month with Greenblatt to follow up on his meetings with Netanyahu in Israel earlier in the month.
Israel Radio reported on Sunday that the discussions between the Israeli envoys and Greenblatt had been suspended due to a lack of progress.
News of the suspension comes after Israel’s security cabinet on Thursday approved the first new settlement in decades for families evicted from the razed West Bank outpost of Amona, followed by Netanyahu saying at the same meeting that any future West Bank construction would be limited to existing settlement boundaries or adjacent to them, and that Israel will prevent the construction of any new illegal outposts.
On Thursday, Greenblatt held meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the foreign ministers of Qatar and Egypt on the sidelines of the Arab League summit in Jordan. Abbas, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi also reportedly huddled to co-ordinate their positions ahead of their meetings with Trump at the White House in coming weeks.
According to anonymously sourced Israeli media reports, Greenblatt told Netanyahu during talks in Israel earlier this month that Trump wanted substantial restriction on settlement construction. Netanyahu reportedly expressed reservations about the proposal, particularly an official moratorium on construction outside the major settlements, mainly because of anticipated opposition from within his right-wing government.
The Prime Minister’s Office subsequently denied the reports, but no understandings were announced.
When Netanyahu visited the White house in February, Trump said he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements a little bit.” Earlier in the month, Trump said settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.