A top adviser to President-elect Donald Trump says his boss doesn't think Israeli settlements should be condemned and they don't pose an "obstacle to peace."
Jason Greenblatt's comments to Israel's Army Radio Thursday would mark a stark departure from the long-time American stance that Israeli construction in areas captured in the 1967 Six Day War makes it more difficult to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Greenblatt is the chief legal officer and executive vice president at the Trump Organization. He has been tapped by Trump as his top adviser on Israel.
Israel and the US are close allies but relations were often tense between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mainly over Israel's policies toward the Palestinians. Netanyahu and Trump have been friends for many years and ties between the two are expected to improve.
After Trump was proclaimed the victor of the presidential elections, Netanyahu posted a Facebook video congratulating the president-elect, describing him as a "true friend" and expressed his optimism about elevating the US-Israeli relationship to "new heights." Later on Netanyahu called Trump, reiterated his belief that he was a "true friend of Israel" and assured him that the US has no greater ally than Israel.
Settler leadership happy with Trump victory
Meanwhile, Trump's victory has put a new, optimistic wind in the sails of the settlement enterprise in Israel, as right wing MKs and West Bank regional council leaders welcomed the Republican's election.
Yossi Dagan, head of the Shomron Regional Council, publicly supported Trump, and expressed his hope that a new path will be made in regards to the West Bank settlements.
"I'm sorry to say this, but the decision to build a new park in the West Bank isn't made by the head of the Regional Council nor by the Israeli government, but on the whims of the President of the United States and how he feels that day," Dagan said.
Dagan, who participated in the opening of the Trump campaign headquarters in the West Bank, and even met with Trump Advisor David Friedman, continued by saying that "we decided that we will no longer sit on the side and watch as world leaders decide our lives, but become involved instead – both for our sakes, and for the sake of our children." Dagan said.
"Trump's announcements were clearly in favor of strengthening Jewish settlement in the West Bank. We regularly host parliamentarians, congressmen, and senators, and have created extensive relationships with high ranking Republican officials," he continued
Dagan then directed his message to the Netanyahu government, saying "we have high expectations for a significant change in how the Israeli government treats Judea and Samaria following the election of a US president who is a friend to the settler movement in the West Bank. We expect an end to the construction freeze, and even more."
Mayor of Ariel Eliyahu Shaviro also welcomed Trump's victory. The mayor added that he believes that the new American president will stand by his pledge of preventing a Palestinian state, and will continue to support building within the settlements, especially in Ariel.
Meanwhile, Acting Head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council Moshe Saville said "I'm sure that a new era of bravery and connection to the land has begun."
The settlers also received support from the Bayit Yehudi party, specifically from Party Chairman Naftali Bennett. He wrote on Facebook that "Trump's victory is a rare opportunity for Israel to announce on its withdrawal from the idea of establishing (a Palestinian state) in the heart of Israeli territory, something which would constitute a direct harm to our security and in the justice of our cause. This is the President elect's view as is written in his platform, and this of course must also be what we do as well. Straight, simple, and clear. This is the end of the era of the Palestinian state."
Meanwhile, Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said "something happened, the change which occurred (on Tuesday) in the US is a fait accompli. One thing must be made clear, the two state solution must be shelved immediately. The government in the US is going to change, and with that so will the terrible freeze on building which was forced on the State of Israel by the previous administration… I call on the prime minister and the entire government to stand behind the settlement of Judea and Samaria, and to announce the building of thousands of housing units today."
Science Minister Ofir Akunis told Army Radio Thursday that, "We need to think how we move forward now when the administration in Washington, the Trump administration and his advisers, are saying that there is no place for a Palestinian state."