Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his government will not freeze settlements in occupied Jerusalem, Israeli media reported on Wednesday. He said,
The issue of halting building projects in the Israeli neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem is not part of the [current] negotiations with the US administration
Netanyahu made his comments during his tour to China, where he told journalists on Tuesday that talks between the Israelis and the Americans about settlements started the day before. However, he noted, they ended without “any breakthrough or progress,” although they will resume soon.
The Israeli leader also said that the main aim of the Israeli delegation to Washington is to reach an agreement for a new settlement for those settlers who were evacuated last month from Amona outpost in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Amona was illegal, even under Israeli law; all Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu said that he had not “retreated” from his promise to build a brand new West Bank settlement for the Amona evacuees.
The Times of Israel pointed out that when US President Donald Trump told Netanyahu that he “would like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit” during a February meeting, the prime minister said that he was working with the US to “establish a mechanism” regarding construction in settlements. Effectively, though, Netanyahu rejected Trump’s hint due to opposition from his coalition partners, notably Jewish Home, as well as his own Likud party.