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Latest News in Israel – 18th October

Israeli leaders: Hamas must disarm, or reconciliation means nothing

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out against the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement signed Thursday in Cairo, saying that “reconciling with a murderous organization that strives to destroy Israel does not bring peace closer, but rather makes it more distant.”

Israel, read a post on the Prime Minister of Israel’s Facebook account, “opposes any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel.”

Israel also demands that Hamas return the bodies of the IDF solider and two Israeli civilians it is holding.

“There is nothing Israel wants more than peace with all our neighbors,” the post read. “Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace much harder to achieve.”

Netanyahu asked what it means when Fatah reconciles with a terrorist organization that “seeks the annihilation of Israel, advocates genocide, launched thousands of rockets at civilians and digs terror tunnels, murders children, represses minorities, bans LGBT, rejects international obligations, refuses to free Israeli civilians it holds hostage, refuses to return the bodies of Israeli soldiers to grieving mothers and fathers, tortures opposition, mourns [Osama] Bin Laden’s death.”

The post continued: “Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Say yes to peace and no to joining hands with Hamas.”

MK Tzipi Livni called the reconciliation talks in Cairo “an opportunity for change,” but also called on Hamas to disarm.

“Egypt’s involvement and the entry of the PA into Gaza is an opportunity for change, but as long as Hamas remains an armed terrorist organization, Palestinian reconciliation is a legitimacy for Hamas and terrorism rather than a takeover [by the PA].

She added: “Israel must act in such a way that the world will not accept the Hezbollah model in Lebanon — a nice foreign government and an armed organization that continues terror.”

Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz reiterated Netanyahu’s and Livni’s concerns about the agreement, warning the PA against letting Hamas dictate the terms.

“Israel and the international community should insist that the Palestinian unity government accept the conditions of the Quartet and Security Council Resolution 1850: recognition of Israel, a commitment to the two-state solution, and the cessation of terror and incitement,” a statement from Peretz’s office read.

The head of the PLO General Delegation to the United States, Dr. Husam Zomlot, thanked US President Donald Trump for “encouraging” the reconciliation talks in Cairo, and reaffirmed what he called PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ commitment to achieving a “just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.”

Just prior to Netanyahu’s Facebook post, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a somewhat milder reaction to the reconciliation, saying in a statement that it must comply with international agreement and the Quartet’s conditions, which also include recognizing Israel and a forswearing of terrorism.

“The continued digging of tunnels, the manufacture of missiles and the initiation of terror attacks against Israel are contrary to the Quartet’s conditions and the US efforts to renew the political process,” the statement read.

According to this statement, as long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for Israel’s destruction, Jerusalem will consider it responsible for all terrorist acts originating in Gaza. In addition, the statement said that Israel “insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory.”

Israel will monitor the developments on the ground and act accordingly, the statement read.  (Jerusalem Post)

Ex-IDF Intel Chief: Strike on Syrian Anti-Aircraft Battery Shows Israel Will Do What Is Needed to Collect Info on Hezbollah Buildup

The Israeli strike on Monday targeting an anti-aircraft missile battery in Syria was an “important” event that sent a message to the Jewish state’s enemies, a former IDF Military Intelligence chief said.

“It demonstrates that Israel will not shy away from its need to collect intelligence on the buildup of Hezbollah with the support of Iran and the Assad regime,” Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin — who as an IAF pilot took part in the 1981 destruction of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor and is now the director of the Tel Aviv University-affiliated Institute for National Security Studies — tweeted.

The SA-5 battery — located about 30 miles east of the Syrian capital of Damascus — was bombed hours after it had fired a missile toward IAF planes conducting a reconnaissance mission over Lebanon. Later on Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime warned that Israel’s action would have “dangerous consequences.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in a video statement on Monday, “Our policy is clear — anyone who tries to hurt us, we will hurt them. Today, they tried to hit our planes — this is not acceptable to us.”

“The air force acted with precision, swiftness and destroyed what needed to be destroyed,” Netanyahu continued. “We will continue to act in the arena as much as needed to defend Israel’s security.”

Since the civil war in Syria erupted in 2011, Israel has largely sought to remain neutral in the bloody conflict, which has drawn in many regional players. However, the IDF has responded with pinpoint strikes to occasional cross-border fire — both errant and intentional — in the Golan Heights and has reportedly targeted a number of Hezbollah-bound weapons convoys in Syria in recent years.

Israel has also provided medical treatment to thousands of people wounded in the fighting in Syria.

Recently, Israel has been publicly expressing its concerns about Iran’s ongoing bid to set up a permanent presence in Syria.

In August, Netanyahu flew to Sochi for a sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the meeting, Netanyahu stated, “Iran is increasing its efforts to establish its military foothold in Syria. That is dangerous for Israel, the Middle East and, I believe, the whole world.”

After Moscow’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime began two years ago, Israel and Russia set up a coordination mechanism to avoid unintended confrontations between their forces. This mechanism was used during Monday’s strike, according to the IDF.

The IAF regularly conducts reconnaissance flights over Lebanon to keep an eye on Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shia terrorist group based in the country. Over the past three decades, Hezbollah has carried out countless attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians and, in the summer of 2006, fought a 33-day-long war against the IDF.  (the Algemeiner)

Netanyahu to Russian defense minister: Israel won’t allow Iranian presence in Syria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday that Israel will not allow a permanent military presence in Syria.

Netanyahu’s comment came a day after Israel’s destruction of an SA-5 anti aircraft battery in Syria. Both Russia and Iran are key backers of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister’s Office, most of the meeting dealt with Iranian efforts to set up a military permanent presence in Syria. “Iran needs to understand that Israel will not allow that,” Netanyahu told Shoigu.

The Iranian nuclear deal, and US President Donald Trump’s recent decision to decertify the deal, was also discussed, with Netanyahu repeating Israel’s position that if the deal is not changed, then Iran will acquire a nuclear arsenal within eight to ten years.

Following Trump’s announcement last week, Russia said that there was no place in international diplomacy for aggressive rhetoric, and that his effort was doomed to fail.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is hosting the visit and met Shoigu on Monday, also took part in the meeting.

During Shoigu’s meeting with Liberman on Monday night, Shoigu stated that the Russian operation in Syria was “nearing completion,” stressing that there are many issues which must be addressed.

“I would like to talk about the situation in Syria. Our operation is going to be finished there, and there are a few issues that require urgent solution, and prospects for further development of the state of affairs in Syria need to be discussed too,” Shoigu said.

Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in September 2015 for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and officials from Israel and Russia meet regularly to discuss the deconfliction mechanism implemented, a system over Syria to order avoid accidental clashes.

Shoigu also stated that due to the current situation in the Middle East, he hoped that his visit and the talks would help to “better understand each other” and contributing to strengthening ties between the armed forces of the two countries.

“As terrorist activities in the world have been increasing, the international community needs to stay united in the struggle against this evil,” Russia’s defense minister said.

Neither leader directly addressed the incident in Syria, though the IDF had confirmed that the Russians were informed about the launch and retaliatory strike.

The two defense ministers also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial on Tuesday, where Shoigu laid a wreath in the Hall of Names commemorating the extermination of six million Jews during the Second World War.  (Jerusalem Post)

Zionist Union members distance themselves from party chairman Avi Gabbay

Knesset members from the Zionist Union party distanced themselves on Monday evening from statements made by party chairman Avi Gabbay, who said earlier that he has no intention of evicting Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

“I will not evacuate settlements as part of an agreement with the Palestinians,” Gabbay told Channel 2 News. He added that he believed that signing a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority (PA) did not automatically mean signing an agreement to evacuate Jewish residents.

MK Tzipi Livni, who in the past was in charge of negotiations with the PA, responded to Gabbay’s remarks and said, “I am making it clear that Gabbay’s statement that he will not evacuate settlements as part of a peace agreement is the position of the Labor chairman alone.”

“This is not my position, not the position of Hatnua, and not the position of the Zionist Union,” she added.

MK Ksenia Svetlova also distanced herself Gabbay’s remarks and said, “Only a political settlement and separation from the Palestinians will ensure the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. We have to carefully preserve what we can preserve and if not, we will lose everything.”

Similar comments came from MK Nachman Shai, who tweeted, “We will have to separate from the Palestinians, we will have to evacuate settlements with pain and sorrow.”

Gabbay, meanwhile, made clear later on Monday evening that he stood by his comments and that what he said in the televised interview was not different from comments he made in the past.

“At every meeting, conference and interview, I stress my commitment to a permanent peace agreement on the basis of a two-state solution while safeguarding Israel’s security, and make the clear distinction between the settlement blocs and the isolated settlements,” Gabbay told party activists, according to Channel 2.

“On the other hand,” he continued, “I do not think it is appropriate to draw at this stage the boundaries of the negotiations, including the issue of the immediate evacuation of all the settlements, and there is no place to commit to it as a preliminary statement at this stage. I say and emphasize at every opportunity that any solution that will lead us to an agreement deserves to be examined and weighed carefully. What was published today is no different from this position.”

Members of the political establishment have speculated that Gabbay is trending towards the right politically in order to present himself as a viable alternative to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Prior to Monday’s comments, Gabbay said at a conference of Labor Party activists in Dimona on Sunday that both Israelis and Arabs must understand that Israel is the stronger party.

“We have to understand a very simple thing – we are the strong ones here. They always scare us, but we are the stronger ones. We are stronger than the Arabs. We do not have to be afraid of them – the Arabs have to be afraid of us,” Gabbay said.

“One cannot compromise [on the issue of security],” he continued. “One cannot just say, ‘It’s okay, I understand, they fired only one missile.’ There is no such thing. If they fire one missile – you fire twenty. This is the only thing they understand in the Middle East.”

Those comments come a day after Gabbay said that he would not sit in the same coalition as the Arab Joint List party.

“We will not sit with them, unequivocally. I do not see anything that connects us to them,” Gabbay said at a cultural event in Be’er Sheva.  (Arutz Sheva)

Understanding Holocaust shaped the son of Curtis Cheng

Friends and family of Alpha Cheng were sceptical when the teacher embarked on a tour of ­Israel in January last year, part of a scholarship to learn how to teach his students about the Holocaust.

It was only three months after his father, accountant Curtis Cheng, was shot dead outside Parramatta police headquarters by radicalised 15-year-old Farhad Jabar.

“A lot of friends were trying to persuade me not to go, saying you’ve just had a very traumatic experience, and learning about one of the most traumatic events in history and going to a region where there is a high risk of terrorism … this is not the best idea.”

But Mr Cheng, a Canberra teacher who has spent two years in the spotlight since the murder of his father, was intent on going: “I didn’t want what happened to me to change how I lived my life.”

He is glad he went. After four weeks in Israel talking to concentration camp survivors, he credits the experience with shaping his own type of advocacy, which sees him regularly speak out about the importance of combating bigotry and racism, and promoting tolerance and multiculturalism.

Mr Cheng, 30, will address Victorian parliamentarians today as he opens the Courage to Care ­exhibition at Parliament House, which tells the stories of people who rescued Jews and others from the Holocaust.

One of the main messages, he says, is to encourage young people to stand up to injustice: “(In Israel), I met a lot of Holocaust survivors … these were people that have gone through more extreme forms of trauma at the hands of extremists than I can even ­imagine. I saw the light that they shine in terms of continuing to speak out in spite of their trauma to promote peace, understanding, to ­ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”

Working as a teacher today, Mr Cheng says he has noticed growing interest from his students in the subject of the Holocaust and World War II, as they draw parallels between current affairs and historical events.

“I’ve taught the Holocaust for quite a few years and the interest in understanding it … is growing because they can actually now see linkages to what they are studying,” he said. “It’s scary to think it’s still so relevant for us.”

He says more credit needs to be given to young people, who often approach difficult topics with a more open mind, and are willing to listen and shift their perspective during debates. And in his own classroom, he uses his personal loss to get the message across.

“In my classes, when I make an appearance in a conference or I’ve written an article, I do, if I get the opportunity, talk to them about it, get them to watch what I’ve said or read what I’ve written,” he says.

“Those are sometimes the best lesson because they are real life. It’s not something from a text book, it’s someone speaking from experience. That’s sometimes ­really powerful..” (the Australian)

Israel Moves Ahead on West Bank Settlements, but Guardedly

by Isabel Kershner and David Halbingeroct               The New York Times

Israel is moving ahead with plans for a significant expansion of its settlements in the occupied West Bank, including apartments in the volatile city of Hebron and the first approval of a new settlement in 20 years.

But while the latest plans call for the eventual construction of thousands of new homes on the West Bank, when Israeli officials meet this week to review them, only several hundred housing units appear likely to be granted final approval.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is once again maneuvering on familiar ground, trying to balance the demands of his pro-settlement coalition partners with the opposition from the international community.

In restricting the number of final approvals now, however, his government may also be taking into account some other Israeli priorities. Among them are the campaign against Iran and the joint interests he has been pushing with Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, with which Israel has no formal diplomatic relations.

When the Israeli government announced last week that a planning committee convening on Tuesday and Wednesday would promote plans for 3,736 new housing units — which are at various stages of the long approval process — opponents of Israeli settlement in the West Bank were outraged. Critics in the pro-settlement camp were not satisfied, either, accusing Mr. Netanyahu of recycling announcements of plans that were still in their early stages of approval and engaging in political spin.

According to calculations by both sides, about 600 housing units will receive final approval before building. Final approval is also expected to be given for an additional 459 housing units in the urban settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, though in that case bids for construction still need to be issued.

Oded Revivi, the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha Council that represents the settlers, complained that the amount of building being approved “does not accommodate even the natural growth” of the settler population.

The Trump administration has been more accommodating than its predecessors when it comes to Israeli settlement activity. But it has also called for restraint as it tries to foster a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with regional support and a coalition against Iran’s regional ambitions.

“That’s the tension: a government that wants to satisfy, or not upset, the American administration,” Mr. Revivi said, “and the demands of citizens whose needs are not being kept.”

Based on several meetings he had with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Revivi believes the Trump administration has not really drawn clear lines about what settlement it could live with.

“They said to the prime minister, ‘We are not going to put any limits on you, but just make sure that what you do doesn’t get us upset,’ Mr. Revivi said. “I think that’s where Prime Minister Netanyahu is: not knowing just how much he can pull the strings without getting the American administration upset.”

Most of the world considers the settlements, built in the territory that Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war — the heartland of any future Palestinian state — to be a violation of international law.

Hagit Ofran, who monitors construction for Peace Now, a leftist Israeli advocacy group that opposes settlement activity, said there had been a sharp acceleration in the promotion of plans compared with the last two years. The rate now, she said, is similar to that in 2014, which was a bumper year. (The relative slump in 2015 and 2016 might have been due to a glut.)

“The strategy is to confuse us,” Ms. Ofran said. And Israel, she said, is now allowing itself to build in places where it has held off for decades.

For example, approval is being given for 31 new apartments in the Jewish settlement in the heart of the contested and volatile city of Hebron, although that project is expected to be held up by a legal challenge by Hebron’s Palestinian-run City Hall.

And for the first time in 20 years, final approval is also being given for a new settlement, Amihai, to accommodate the families who were evacuated from the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona, which was built on private Palestinian land.

A bid for construction is expected to be issued for 300 units in the Beit El settlement that the government has been promising since 2012. And heavy machinery has been spotted in recent days carrying out soil-boring tests at Givat Hamatos, an area over the 1967 lines in southern Jerusalem. According to Peace Now, the infrastructure work is being done in preparation for the issuing of bids for the construction of 1,600 housing units in the area.

Anti-settlement groups say the construction in Givat Hamatos would drive a wedge between predominantly Palestinian East Jerusalem neighborhoods and Bethlehem, harming the contiguity of any future Palestinian state. The past promotion of plans there have prompted international condemnation.

In its official statement last week, the government declared: “During 2017, approximately 12,000 housing units in different stages of planning and construction will be approved, about four times the amount in 2016. Whoever claims that this is not a significant improvement is misleading the public.” But hinting at the need to take Israel’s broader interests into account, the statement also said, “Whoever believes that diplomatic considerations need not be taken into account is greatly mistaken.”

“There is nobody,” the statement concluded, “that does more for settlement, steadfastly and wisely, than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, condemned the latest settlement plans. “Clearly, Israel is bent on entrenching the military occupation and its illegal settlement enterprise,” she said, “further reaffirming its intentions of displacing Palestine and replacing it with ‘Greater Israel.’”

Bezalel Smotrich, an Israeli lawmaker from the staunchly pro-settlement Jewish Home party, which sits in Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition, wrote a scathing online post accusing the prime minister’s staff of issuing “a sea of lying numbers.”

Mr. Smotrich blamed the Americans for not authorizing plans for industrial zones by the settlements, in part because they take up a lot of space. “Without industrial zones there is no employment, no livelihood and no existence,” he said.

The planning committee meeting this week convenes four times a year. Shaul Arieli, an Israeli expert on political geography who prepared maps for past negotiations with the Palestinians, and who is a strong advocate for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, said final approval for about 600 units has become relatively “routine.”

But in the past, he said, about 75 percent of new building was inside the so-called settlement blocs, meaning areas mostly close to the 1967 line that Israel intends to keep in any future agreement with the Palestinians, possibly in return for land swaps. Over the last six or seven years, he said, up to half the new building has been deep in the West Bank, outside the blocs.

Nuances on the U.S. position on Israel under Trump

From Ron Weiser

President Trump continues to surprise his critics when it comes to the Middle East. He behaves in a more measured way, carrying out most of his administration’s activities behind the scenes and by maintaining different levels of pressure upon parties on all sides.

And it should be noted – not worrying about breaking or falling short of many of his campaign promises.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has been almost the lone voice in the Israeli government, along with Avigdor Lieberman, to have realised that Trump’s election gave Israel an opportunity, but not carte blanche.

Netanyahu, who well understands that negotiations mean give and take, identified the prime issue he sees that faces Israel and has paid a political price internally, for sticking to it without deviation.

The number one issue for Israel is Iran and its potential to produce nuclear weapons.

The number two issue is Iran’s growing influence over the Middle East generally.

Netanyahu, who campaigned heavily and openly against Obama on the P5 + 1 nuclear agreement of July 2015, has endeavoured to, as he said in the US in September, have the US and hopefully the world – “fix it or nix it”.

Indeed, inside Israel, whilst there is a consensus that it is not a good agreement, there is quite a degree of vigorous discussion over whether the deal is better cancelled or improved.

The problem is that improving the deal is very complicated and may or may not be achievable.

The shortcomings of the Iran treaty centre on:

–        the lack of confidence in ensuring compliance due to difficulty of access to certain Iranian sites

–        the sunset clause which does not bar Iran from nuclear weapons at the end of the agreement

–        and the fact that the agreement does not deal with Iran’s non nuclear capabilities.

Trump, who has previously twice certified Iranian compliance, decided on a different course this time – to decertify the deal without yet cancelling it and to throw it back to the US Congress to come up with a way forward in the next sixty days.

President Trump said “I am directing my administration work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.”

On Sunday US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said that the US would “stay in the nuclear agreement, but aim to make it better.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reaction was – “President Trump has just created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.

Nixing the deal means restoring massive pressure on Iran, including crippling sanctions, until Iran fully dismantles its nuclear weapons capability. Fixing the deal requires many things, among them inspecting military and any other site that is suspect, and penalising Iran for every violation.

Above all, fixing the deal means getting rid of the sunset clause.”

In addition to dealing with the nuclear threat, the prime minister continued:

“We must also stop Iran’s development of ballistic missiles and roll back its growing aggression in the region.”

A further development has been the US decision to pull out of UNESCO at the end of 2018 for amongst other reasons, its “anti Israel bias”, and in general stating it needed “fundamental reform”.

Another reason given was financial – US debt to UNESCO has exceeded $500 million and continued membership adds to its debt.

It should be noted that under President Reagan the US pulled out of UNESCO in 1984 and only rejoined in 2002 under President George W. Bush. Then six years ago under President Obama the US did not withdraw from UNESCO, but withheld funding (about 22% of UNESCO’s total annual budget), when it admitted Palestine as a member.

Immediately following the latest US decision, Israel announced its intention to also withdraw at the end of 2018.

Ironically the next day the new UNESCO head was voted in.

The French Jewish candidate of Moroccan descent, Audrey Azoulay, beat the Qatari candidate for the position.

Israeli Labour Party leader Avi Gabbay, who is from the so called ‘left’ and who is starting to outline his party’s direction into the future said that “the fact a Jew was voted to be the next UNESCO director should have no bearing on the decision to leave the organisation”.

On Iran and Trump Gabbay said:

“Iran is a real threat to the State of Israel, Obviously Israel cannot allow Iran to reach nuclear capabilities… There is the stage of speeches, and that’s followed by the stage of closed-door diplomacy. I think we need to keep pushing for sanctions, especially on terrorism. I hope Trump would take it that extra step and won’t settle just for speeches.”

Although never directly linked publically by the US administration, Netanyahu has been very clear in cabinet discussions that there is a price to pay – at least for the moment – for such US focus to remain on Iran and the UN.

Two main areas are obvious.

In regards to moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, appearing on former Arkansan Governor Mike Huckabee’s show on October the 7th, President Trump said he will not consider moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem until an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan his administration is working on, is given a chance to succeed.

“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” Trump said.

The second is when it comes to settlements.

There is a real problem in even trying to sort out what is and is not actually happening in this regard.

The building of settlement housing whether in the consensus settlement blocks or in towns outside the blocks, generally requires between 7 and 9 steps of government and administrative approval.

Often for domestic political reasons the Israeli government announces and re announces the very same housing as it moves through the various stages. That is, multiple announcements are about the same apartments.

The other issue is the paving of bypass roads that connect the settlements.

The US reiterated its position this past week saying: “While we are not going to respond to every announcement or report, our policy toward settlements remains unchanged.

The administration has made clear that unrestrained settlement activity does not advance the prospect for peace. At the same time the administration recognises that past demands for a settlement freeze have not helped advance peace talks.”

So to the numbers.

Despite reports of a jump in authorisations for up to 4,000 units, the High Planning Subcommittee whose meetings have been delayed in the past, and assuming they will not be delayed again, will be considering for final approval, exactly 1,196 housing units.

Bypass roads are not currently on the agenda.

Increasingly members of Netanyahu’s own government are speaking out against him and Trump on this issue.

Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin criticised the Trump administration over pressure it puts on Israel to cease building in Judea and Samaria.

Elkin said that while the Trump administration was substantially better for Israel than former President Barack Obama generally, “the only thing that has not changed is the negative way it looks at Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria. On this issue, the administration continues the tradition of the Obama administration.”

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, also from Likud, criticised the lack of new roads in the building plans and the fact that the government kept postponing construction.

“There were all sorts of promises about construction and roads. Suddenly the timing is not quite right and we have to wait for further developments and a few other things. I think the timing will never be right.”

Settlement leader Yossi Dagan said: “talk doesn’t build settlements and words don’t pave roads.

The bypass roads have been promised to us time after time. Promises we have. Roads we do not. The prime minister must commit himself to a clear and imminent date when these bypass roads will be paved”.

Bezalel Smotrich MK, a member of the government coalition from Naphtali Bennett’s party said the advancement of new West Bank settlement construction has slowed under US President Donald Trump in relation to his predecessor Barack Obama.

“We have arrived at a worse situation under the Trump administration than under the Obama administration,” Smotrich told Israel Radio.

The past weeks have shown that President Trump is willing to provide critical support for Israel, perhaps not quite in the way and to the extent envisaged by some of his supporters, but that there is no blank cheque.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to placate both Trump on the one hand and his own coalition members on the other.

A very difficult and delicate balancing act.