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Lieberman urges agreement with Trump over 'settlement blocs'

Israeli Defence Minster Avigdor Lieberman has urged the government to seek an understanding with a Donald Trump administration whereby Israel freezes construction in isolated West Bank settlements, in exchange for unhindered building in so-called settlement blocs.

Lieberman said: "We've been receiving official messages from Trump's team. They're expecting us to act modestly. There are people in his close circle that we know well, they're telling us 'wait. Don't set facts on the ground'."

"I hope that we will have enough common sense to stop with the public jubilation. It causes untold damage," he added in reference to the warm welcome extended by some Israeli ministers who hope that a Trump presidency will help facilitate annexation of some or all of the West Bank.

"Right now we've got a right-wing coalition here in Israel, a Republican president and Republican Congress. It's reasonable to expect us to reach understandings about Middle East policies, including issues pertaining to the settlements and Iran," Lieberman said.

"Our top priority now is to reach an agreement with the new [US] administration regarding the Jewish settlement issue," he added.

Lieberman expressed support for an understanding between the US and Israel along the lines of a 2005 agreement reached by former US President George W. Bush and former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whereby Washington would recognise so-called "settlement blocs".

"Focusing on building in places where 80 per cent of the population is living in settlements instead of building in Nokdim [Lieberman's home town settlement in the West Bank] or settlements outside the blocs would be a positive step," the defence minister said.

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