Kushner, Greenblatt met with family of murdered Border Policewoman in Israel

While Israel has continued to expand existing settlement blocs, no new settlements have been built since the 1993 Oslo peace accords, which were meant to lay the framework for a future two-state solution. Most of the world considers settlements built on occupied land illegal under global law, a position Israel disputes.

Heavy machinery work on a field as they begin construction work of Amichai, a new settlement which will house some 300 Jewish settlers evicted in February from the illegal West Bank settlement of Amona, in the West Bank June 20, 2017.

Netanyahu had vowed to build a new settlement toreplace Amona, which was destroyed in February after Israel's top court ruled it was illegally built on private Palestinian land.

Kushner and Greenblatt will sound out both sides "about their priorities and potential next steps" as part of Trump's attempt to "spearhead a peace effort" that collapsed in 2014, a White House official said.

"There was not, and there will never be, as good a government for the settlements as ours", the prime minister added.

"After decades, I have the honour to be the first prime minister to build a settlement in Judea and Samaria", Netanyahu said, calling the West Bank by its biblical name.

While preliminary work has already begun, plans for the settlement have yet to go through the approval process, meaning actual construction work has yet to begin.

US officials are calling the trip part of an effort to keep the conversation going rather than the launching of a new phase in the peace process, saying that Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the president's special representative for worldwide negotiations, are likely to return repeatedly.

Mr Trump has said he considers settlement expansion as unhelpful for a peace deal.

He has taken a considerably milder position towards Israeli settlements though than his predecessor, Barack Obama, who sharply criticised settlement activity.

Most countries view Israeli settlement activity as illegal and an obstacle to peace. The two arrived in the region amidst the White House's efforts to revive the long-stalled peace talks.

Israel is enduring a wave of Palestinian attacks on civilians and security forces that erupted in 2015.

  • Leroy Wright