Israel’s government approved its first new West Bank settlement in two decades Thursday, creating a test for President Trump’s foray into Middle East peacemaking.
The White House said that further settlement activity “does not help advance peace” and that it expects Israel to show restraint moving forward.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the decision late Thursday after a meeting of his policymaking Security Cabinet.
Netanyahu has vowed to build a new settlement to compensate the residents of Amona, an illegal settler outpost that was demolished in February under the orders of the Supreme Court.
Thursday’s announcement said the settlement would be built near the settlement of Shilo, which is near the Amona site.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas captured by Israel in 1967, as parts of a future state.
More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But Israel has not built a full-fledged new settlement since the 1990s. Instead, construction during that period has expanded existing settlements or taken place in unauthorized outposts like Amona. Netanyahu’s hard-line government, which is dominated by settler allies, recently passed legislation aimed at legalizing dozens of those outposts.
The Palestinians and the international community consider the settlements obstacles to peace because they gobble up territory where the Palestinians seek to establish their state.
Israel says the status of settlements as well as other issues, such as security, should be resolved in peace talks.
Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi condemned the new settlement approval and called for international intervention.
“Today’s announcement once again proves that Israel is more committed to appeasing its illegal settler population than to abiding by the requirements for stability and a just peace,” she said. “It is time that all members of the international community serve the cause of peace and justice and bring Israel to cease and desist its unlawful settlement activities and illegal unilateralism once and for all.”