Israeli settlements not obstacle to peace: Trump adviser
US President-elect Donald Trump does not think the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories should be condemned because they don’t pose “an obstacle to peace,” according to a top Trump adviser.
The comments were made on Thursday by Jason Greenblatt, the chief legal officer and executive vice president at the Trump Organization. He has been tapped by Trump as his top adviser on Israel.
Greenblatt’s comments would mark a stark departure from the long-time Washington stance that Israeli settlement construction in occupied Palestinian lands makes it more difficult to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
An Israeli minister called for renewed settlement expansions after Greenblatt’s comments. Israeli Science Minister Ofir Akunis said Tel Aviv thinks it’s time to move forward with more settlements now that Trump has won the US presidency.
The administration of US President Barack Obama has repeatedly criticized Israel over the settlement expansions, saying they make it difficult for Israel to reach peace with Palestinians.
The US and Israel are close allies but relations were often tense between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Israeli settlements and the nuclear agreement with Iran last year.
Analysts say a Trump presidency may be profoundly negative for Palestinian aspirations while buoying Israel’s confidence.
Under the Trump presidency, analysts expect there to be less pressure from Washington to halt illegal Israeli settlement building, meaning the settler population will grow unchecked.
“The Palestinian people hold no hope that the change of American president will mean a change in policy towards the Palestinian cause,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “That policy is constant and biased in favor of Israel’s occupation.”
Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II. America’s military assistance to Israel has amounted to $124.3 billion since it began in 1962, according to a recent congressional report.