TEL AVIV — The Trump administration responded to the recent passage of Israel’s settlements regulation bill by saying that the president would discuss it when he meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later this month.
The bill, which will see the legalization of dozens of settlement outposts in the West Bank , was roundly condemned by the UN, EU, UK and France, as well as the Arab and Muslim world.
However, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer declined to provide a specific response to the bill, saying only, “I think that will be obviously a topic of discussion” between the two leaders.
“Right now, I don’t want to get ahead of that,” Spicer added in a press briefing Monday evening.
Days earlier, the Trump administration released its first statement regarding the settlements, which have seen more activity since President Donald Trump was elected.
“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful,” Thursday’s statement read.
The statement omitted any mention of the two-state solution. Pressed on whether the president was in support of such a resolution, Spicer was evasive.
“The president is committed to peace,” he said. “That’s his goal.”
Netanyahu, who was ostensibly in support of the bill, did not return from his visit to the UK in time to vote on it. This meant the bill was passed with 60 members of Knesset in favor, not 61, making it easier for the Supreme Court to strike it down. The prime minister, who was pressured to postpone the vote until after his February 15 meeting with Trump, said he informed the president of the vote but never intended to delay it.
“I never said I want to push it off,” he said. “I act according to the national interests. In my view, you don’t surprise friends. Friends don’t surprise each other. Friends update each other. That’s what I did.”
He added that he informed Trump the bill would be passed through an additional two plenum readings.