Netanyahu Agreed in Principle to Rein in Settlement Construction, but No Final Deal With U.S.

Despite differences, both sides seem to make maximum effort to convey a positive atmosphere, with Israel promising to make 'concrete, near-term measures to improve the overall climate' for peace talks.

Donald Trump's Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017.
Donald Trump's Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. Kobi Gideon, GPO

After four days of intensive negotiations in the White House, Israel and the U.S. have yet to reach a final and comprehensive agreement on reining in settlement construction and talks will continue in the coming days to resolve remaining differences. However, a joint statement published early Friday said Israel is, in principle, willing to curb settlement construction in a way that will take into account President Trump's intent to advance the peace process.

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"The United States delegation reiterated President Trump’s concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement," the statement said. "The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration. The talks were serious and constructive, and they are ongoing."

The talks on restricting settlement construction began on Monday, with the American team headed by Trump's special envoy Jason Greenblatt and the Israeli delegation headed by Netanyahu's chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, and Israel's ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer.

At the end of the talks held overnight between Thursday and Friday, the sides published a joint statement saying talks were focused on the settlements and "concrete, near-term measures to improve the overall climate in order to advance the prospects for a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians."

Despite the remaining differences between the two sides regarding construction in the settlements and other issues, it appears that both sides are making a maximum effort to convey a positive atmosphere and avoid venting their differences in public.

"The fact that both governments dedicated such senior delegations for nearly a full week of talks reflects the close cooperation between the two countries and the importance both assign to this vital task," the White House said in a statement at the end of the talks.

During the talks, the participants also discussed steps that Israel could take in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to help improve the economic situation of the Palestinians. The statement also said that Israel welcomes the Americans' desire to play a role in improving the water and electricity infrastructure of the Palestinians in a way that will benefit all parties and promote the Palestinians' ability to function independently in both areas.

The talks also dealt with reconstruction in the Gaza Strip and the, "necessity of all parties to the 2014 Gaza Reconstruction Conference in Cairo [to fulfill] their pledges to bring humanitarian relief and economic development to Gaza in ways that benefit the population without further empowering Hamas or other terrorist organizations."