Israel starts work on new settlement amid United States peace push

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that ground had been broken on the first new Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank in almost two decades, just as US President Donald Trump's Middle East peace envoys are in Israel this week.

Jared Kushner, a chief adviser to President Donald Trump, is arriving in Israel on Wednesday to embark on a quest for elusive Middle East peace.

Amona was evacuated by police at the start of February after Israel's Supreme Court ordered that the outpost be dismantled because it was built on private Palestinian land. White House officials played down expectations of a dramatic breakthrough during the visit, the New York Times reported.

JERUSALEM (AP) - Ground was broken in the West Bank for the first new Israeli settlement in two decades, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday as President Donald Trump's Mideast envoy, as well as son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner, arrive in the region for talks with Israel and Palestinian leaders.

Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, his lead global negotiator, will meet with leaders from both sides after accompanying Trump on his visit to the region last month.

The Amichai settlement is every bit as illegal under worldwide law as Amona, but the fact that it is being established formally by the government makes it different under Israeli law.

Most countries view settlements that Israel has built on land captured in the June 1967 Middle East war as illegal. President Obama had been sharply critical of Israeli construction in the West Bank, which Palestinians say must become part of a future Palestinian state.

Israel decided in March to build Amichai, which means "My People Live", and in recent weeks it has approved plans for more than 3,000 settler homes elsewhere in the West Bank.

Kushner, a 36-year-old real estate developer with little experience of worldwide diplomacy and peace negotiations, arrived in Israel early on Wednesday and will spend barely 20 hours on the ground - he departs shortly after midnight.

Discussions have been ongoing since that May 22 trip, the official said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, called the new building work a "serious escalation", in a statement published by official Palestinian news agency Wafa. But ahead of his last election victory in 2015, he promised there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch, a remark seen as an attempt to shore right-wing support.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and the Islamic militant group Hamas took over the territory soon after.

  • Leroy Wright