First new Samaria locale in 20 years for Amona evacuees

Netanyahu's announcement Thursday was terse and straight to the point: "The Political-Security Cabinet unanimously approved this evening the establishment of a new settlement for the evacuees of Amona, in the Shilo Valley region". Avichai Boaron, the head of the Amona Committee, welcomed the measure but said: "The test will be...whether in fact houses are built and this decision takes shape or, God forbid, if it remains on paper only".

The approval happened while Netanyahu was, and still is, in the midst of negotiating with Washington on the possibility of stopping the general settlement annexation. Since then, Israel and the US have been in talks over what kind of construction the White House would tolerate.

The only blemish in President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's friendly press conference last month was their disagreement over Israeli settlements.

Israel's pro-settlement government, which had sharp differences with Barack Obama administration on the issue, felt emboldened when Donald Trump took office in January.

Palestinian officials have condemned the move. The talks, however, ended in a stalemate, with the White House expressing its "concerns" about settlement construction.

The Palestinians and the global community consider the settlements obstacles to peace because they gobble up territory where the Palestinians seek to establish their state.

An anonymous White House official told The Times of Israel on Thursday that Trump just wanted the settlements not to get any bigger. David Greenblatt, Trump's worldwide envoy and also an Orthodox Jew, has traveled in recent weeks to the Middle East for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The latest settlement in Emek Shilo comes weeks after Israel's Supreme Court ordered the demolition of the Amona settler outpost because it was built on private Palestinian land.

In an email to NBC News, United Nations Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq "reiterated the UN's long-standing position that settlements are unhelpful to the peace process". The President requested in February that Israel "hold back" on settlement expansion.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had promised to build another settlement for its residents after their eviction.

Ronen Bergman, senior correspondent for Israel's Yediot Aharonot newspaper, said Mr Netanyahu, who has faced corruption allegations, had been dragged further right to keep his government together.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution in December that demanded a halt to settlement building after the United States, Israel's ally, abstained from the vote.

Ayman Abu Ahmad, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, says it is clear that Israel does not want peace.

  • Leroy Wright