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US: Jerusalem expansion bill an obstacle to peace
'The US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations,' senior Trump administration official says of Greater Jerusalem Bill, which seeks to connect several settlements in the West Bank to the capital.
The United States has raised objections to a bill proposal seeking to connect a number of settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem, with a senior official in the administration of US President Donald Trump saying Sunday the legislation poses an obstacle to the peace process.

 

 

"The US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions," the senior American official said.

 

The "Greater Jerusalem Bill" aims to solidify the city's Jewish majority, but stops short of formal annexation, making the practical implications unclear.

 

Ma'ale Adumim (Photo: EPA)
Ma'ale Adumim (Photo: EPA)

 

The bill says the communities would be considered "daughter municipalities" of Jerusalem, enabling some 150,000 Jewish residents of the West Bank to vote in Jerusalem city elections.

 

The settlements in question are Ma'ale Adumim, Efrat, Beitar Illit, and Givat Ze'ev.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to postpone the legislation process for the bill, saying Jerusalem had to coordinate with Washington on the matter.

 

"We're in contact with the Americans," Netanyahu said ahead of the cabinet meeting on Sunday. "The Americans turned to us and inquired
what the bill was about. As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth it (to continue) talking and coordinating with them. We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise."
 
Trump has sent an envoy, Jason Greenblatt, to attempt to breathe life into moribund peace talks, which collapsed under US tutelage in 2014. The effort so far appears to have yielded little progress.

 

Trump has presented Israel with a more lenient approach to its settlements than his predecessor. While the administration has said that settlements are "not helpful" to advancing peace with the Palestinians, Trump's Mideast team, headed by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is led by people with deep ties to the settler movement.

 

Unlike Obama, Trump does not demand a settlement construction freeze, though he has urged restraint. Nor does he demand the establishment of a Palestinian state, breaking from two decades of US policy.

 

Since Trump's election, Israel has pushed a pro-settlement agenda that has included a bill meant to legalize hundreds of settler homes built on private Palestinian land. It has approved the first new West Bank settlement in two decades and greenlighted the construction of thousands of new homes.
 
The senior US official also detailed some of the efforts the Trump administration has been making as part of its peace push.

 

"A few months ago, the President directed his advisors to continue discussions with regional partners about how best to support the peace effort. Those conversations are still ongoing," he said.

 

"On the margins of the UN General Assembly, US representatives met individually with representatives from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and other regional partners. More recently, the Special Representative for International Negotiations traveled to Cairo, Amman, Jerusalem, and Ramallah and met with officials, and he will have further meetings in the coming weeks," he continued.

 

"In addition, the Senior Advisor to the President, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, and the Special Representative for International Negotiations recently returned from Saudi Arabia. The Senior Advisor has also been in frequent contact with officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Saudi Arabia."



 

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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