"Hold Back" On Israeli Settlements-Trump

Added On February 16, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday called for visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold back on building new settlements.

Trump made the remarks at a joint press conference with Netanyahu, before their meeting at the White House.

"As far as settlements, I'd like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit. We'll work something out but I would like to see a deal be made."

In response, Netanyahu played down the issue of settlement building.

"I believe that the issue of the settlement is not the core of the conflict, nor does it really drive the conflict. I think it's an issue that has to be resolved in the context of peace negotiations."

Israel approved last month the construction of 3,000 housing units in West Bank settlements, amidst a spate of settlement expansion in the wake of Trump's inauguration.

Israel's settlement-building in disputed territory is a major dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The settlements are deemed illegal under international law because they are built on lands seized by Israel during the 1967 Mideast War.

Palestinians have identified the land as where they wish to form their future state.

Trump also said that he is open to either a "one-state" or "two-state" solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- a departure from U.S. stance in previous administrations.  

"I'm looking at two-state, one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I am very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one."

Previous U.S. administrations have pushed for the two-state solution to the Middle East peace process, an idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state that lives side-by-side with Israel.
Trump also ceded  on another controversial issue, that of of moving U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) Donald Trump, U.S. President:
"I am happy with the one they like best as far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I'd love to see that happen. We're looking at it very, very strongly."

An official from Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), slammed Trump's remarks, saying it was a retreat from the traditional positions of former U.S. administrations.

The official accused the U.S. of backing the Israeli government and providing a cover for their neighbours to impose a unilateral solution.

Israel has claimed all of Jerusalem as its "eternal and undivided capital". But the international community never recognized East Jerusalem, territory Israel seized in the 1967 conflict and later annexed.
It is also where Palestinians see as capital of their future state.
The idea of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was discussed in the past but never carried out for fear it will spark fresh tensions in the region.