Washington is reportedly alarmed by the Israeli PM’s promises to settler leaders.
The United States has been discreetly demanding Israel to hold back its settler project by slowing down constructions in the Israeli occupied West Bank, a new report said on Wednesday.
Israeli and the US officials told Axios that the pressure came ahead of a key decision on a settlement building in the West Bank, although both parties are not willing the matter to become a source of tension.
US President Joe Biden considers the presence of Jewish settlements as a threat to the two-state solution, but Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is under political pressure from his own party.
The Yamina party that he leads is a religious ultra-nationalist one that supports the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The settlements are deemed illegal by international law and most of the international community sees them in the same light.
When Bennet met Biden at the White House in late August, the US president reportedly told his Israeli counterpart that he expects Israel to show restraint on the new settlement constructions.
Bennet responded by assuring Biden that Israel would build new settlements only if a need for “natural growth” arises, but upon returning to Israel, he moved on telling the settler leaders that he refused Biden’s request to show restraint on the issue, as Times of Israel reported last week.
This caused US charge d’affaires in Jerusalem, Michael Ratney to remind of Biden’s request from Bennett. Reaching to the senior officials in the Prime Minister’s office, Ratney also warned against disrupting territorial contiguity in the West Bank if the planned construction in the E1 area near Jerusalem takes place.
Bennett reportedly has been planning to approve to build 2,000 new housing units in existing settlements and around 1,000 new housing units in Palestinian villages.
But the website said Tel Aviv has been in contact with the US officials since the Biden-Bennett meeting and Israeli officials are now hesitant to approve the new settlements due to pressure from the US.
“There is great sensitivity right now with the Americans about settlements. This is the reason the approval of new planning and building in the settlements is held up for now,” a senior Israeli official said.
According to a report published in May, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ignored US pressure over Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.