Netanyahu: 'Significant Progress' in Talks With Trump Administration on Curbed Settlement Activity

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with U.S. President Donald Trump at a joint news conference at the White House, February 15, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, with President Donald Trump at White House, Feb. 15, 2017.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday to journalists before he left China for Israel that there has been "significant progress" in recent talks between U.S. and Israeli negotiators in recent days regarding curbed settlement construction.

Netanyahu noted that talks have not ended despite the recent progress, which he will be updated on upon his return.

Talks between Israeli and American negotiators began in the White House on Monday in an effort to reach understandings concerning the settlements. Netanyahu told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday that talks will not touch on the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, Netanyahu told Israeli reporters during his visit to Beijing on Tuesday.

One of the main topics on the agenda is Netanyahu’s commitment to build a new settlement for the former residents of the illegal outpost of Amona, which was evacuated in early February, a senior Israeli official said. Netanyahu has made it clear publically a number of times last week that he is committed to his promise to the Amona evacuees. At the same time, the White House has expressed its objections to building new settlements in the West Bank, and as of now no understanding has been reached that will allow Netanyahu to fulfill his promise.

The Israeli delegation to the talks is headed by Netanyahu's chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, who was accompanied by foreign policy adviser Jonathan Schachter and an attorney from the Prime Minister’s Office who deals with the settlements. The delegation took off just as Netanyahu was leaving for his official visit to China. The PMO kept Horowitz’s trip a secret and only informed the press on Sunday evening after Haaretz inquired about the trip.

Horowitz, Schachter and the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, met on Monday with Trump's envoy Jason Greenblatt and other senior U.S. officials from the White House and State Department in order to continue the discussions that began last week in Jerusalem during Greenblatt’s visit.