Israel and the US will set up a joint team to discuss Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, days after talks with President Donald Trump.
During their talks on Wednesday in Washington, Netanyahu and Trump had “agreed to create joint teams to upgrade relations between Israel and the US in all of the main areas,” the premier said.
They will cover “security, intelligence, cyber, technology, economics and many others”, he told ministers and media at the start of Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.
“We also agreed to create a team in an area that we have not previously agreed on: I mean, of course, on settlement in Judaea and Samaria,” he said, using a term Israel applies to the West Bank.
Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in the territory, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967.
The international community sees settlements as a major obstacle to peace, as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
At the White House meeting, their first since Trump took office, the president asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out.”
During their joint White House news conference, Netanyahu said he believes that “the issue of the settlements is not the core of the conflict, nor does it really drive the conflict.”
“I think it’s an issue, it has to be resolved in the context of peace negotiations,” he said.
The administration of previous US president Barack Obama strongly opposed the expansion of Jewish settlements, arguing that they hurt the longer-term search for a two-state solution.
Since Trump’s January 20 inauguration, the Israeli premier has announced more than 5,000 settlement homes and the first entirely new settlement for more than 20 years.
Israel also passed a new law last week that legalises dozens of Jewish outposts and thousands of settler homes built on private Palestinian land in the territory.
The European Union has condemned the legislation, which UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said “is in contravention of international law”.