After Trump Meeting, Netanyahu Says Willing to Examine Reining in Settlement Construction

Netanyahu says its Israel's 'national interest' to reach agreements with Trump on settlements, says recently announced plans for new settlement homes would not be rescinded.

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, speaks with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters following his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump that he was willing to examine with the Trump administration reining West Bank settlement construction, as the U.S. president had requested.

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Nevertheless, Netanyahu stressed that Israel would not be willing to once again impose diplomatic restrictions on construction in East Jerusalem, as it did during the Obama administration.

Netanyahu noted that during their meeting, Trump voiced willingness to "dramatically upgrade" U.S.-Israel ties and said professional teams would be set up for that end. On the other hand, Trump asked Netanyahu both publically and privately to reign in settlement construction.

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"Trump is willing to upgrade our ties in every field," Netanyahu said. "So if there's a request from the president to examine this issue of construction in the settlement then I think our national interest to reach an understanding.

"It is worth making an effort we agreed to continue to discuss this issue to try to reach understandings that fit our desire for reaching peace and security," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu noted that during the meeting with Trump, the two sides didn’t reach understanding regarding settlement construction and that more talks will be held on the issue. He stressed that a recent decision to build 6,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank would not be rescinded or put on hold.

"On the issue of construction in Jerusalem our policy changed [and restrictions imposed during Obama's term were lifted] and it won't go back," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu was asked several times during the press briefing whether he was going back on his 2009 Bar Ilan speech in which he voiced his support for the two-state solution, but Netanyahu avoided giving a clear answer. The prime minister also evaded voicing his opinion of Trump's statement that he does not rule out a one-state solution. "Our definition and [Palestinian President Abbas'] definition of a Palestinian state are not the same," Netanyahu said.

"The state he talks about is unacceptable to us. I didn't change my positions. The essence is the same I've said it before and I repeat – I don't want to annex two million Palestinians to Israel and I've no interest in them being our subjects. But we must make sure we're not under threat of a Palestinian terror state in our heartland."

Another topic raised in Netanyahu's meeting with Trump was the possibility of relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump avoided giving a clear answer to a question on the matter during the press conference held before the meeting. "Concerning the embassy, I said I support moving it to Jerusalem," Netanyahu said. "He's examining the issue thoroughly but he heard our unequivocal opinion on the matter. He wants time to look into the issue."

>> READ FULL TRANSCRIPT: Trump and Netanyahu's joint press conference <<