Published: Sat, March 18, 2017
Global | By Doris Richards

Netanyahu to Greenblatt: Settlement freeze 'not politically feasible'

Netanyahu to Greenblatt: Settlement freeze 'not politically feasible'

A real estate lawyer who has worked for Trump for 20 years, Jason Greenblatt has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanayhu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordan's King Abdullah and other senior officials during a busy round of talks that US diplomats have described as a "listening tour".

Israeli settlement expansion has been the subject of harsh worldwide criticism, with many warning it is gradually eating away at prospects for a two-state solution, the basis of years of negotiations. He was also in Amman with the Jordanian king to seek his help in negotiations.

Netanyahu and Greenblatt will meet for more talks later on Thursday, before the US envoy returns to Washington. The negotiations are set to be continued next week in Washington between Greenblatt and Israel's U.S. ambassador, Ron Dermer.

At a February news conference with Netanyahu in Washington, D.C., Trump told the prime minister he would like to see Israel "hold back on settlements for a little bit".

In a joint statement after the meeting, Netanyahu and Greenblatt described it as "positive" and said it "reaffirmed the joint commitment of both Israel and the United States to advance a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians that strengthens the security of Israel and enhances stability in the region".

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"Those discussions are continuing between the White House and the Prime Minister's Office", according to the statement. Some 385,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank which is also home to 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem.

The settlements are built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - seized by Israel in a 1967 war and occupied for almost 50 years - where Palestinians want to establish their state and capital. However, Israel disagrees with Palestine, citing historical and political links to the land, as well as security interests.

The construction of these settlements, illegal under global law, has been the subject of growing controversy, mounting criticism from the worldwide community, and a deteriorating security situation between Israelis and desperate Palestinians.

The meetings are part of the White House efforts to formulate a new solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Representatives from Yesha have met with (former USA secretary of state) John Kerry and others on the sidelines of events, but we have not had official meetings like this", a spokesman said.

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