- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 2, 2017

President Trump cautioned Israel Thursday against building new settlements or expanding existing settlements, and by saying it hurts the peace process, broke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the firs time since taking office.

“The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years,” the White House said in a statement. “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

The mild but unexpected rebuke came as Mr. Netanyahu vowed to soon break ground on the first new West Bank settlement in more than a decade, a response to court-ordered evacuation and demolition of an unauthorized settlement outpost.

Mr. Trump. ran as a strong pro-Israel candidate and promised to repair the strained relationship the Obama administration had with the Jewish state. Mr. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump at the White House later this month.

“As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month,” said the White House.

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