Top Trump envoy meets Israeli settler leaders
A top adviser to US President Donald Trump met Israeli settler leaders Thursday in an unusual move likely to raise fresh concerns over future prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The US embassy confirmed the talks between Jason Greenblatt and leaders of the Israeli settler movement took place in Jerusalem as part of the White House official's wide-ranging meetings this week.
The Yesha Council, the main Israeli settler organisation, said it was believed to be its highest level official meeting ever with a US administration.
The meeting was attended by Yesha leaders Oded Revivi and Yossi Dagan, the group said.
"Representatives from Yesha have met with John Kerry and others on the sidelines of events, but we have not had official meetings like this," a spokesman said.
"The previous administration never met like this."
Lior Amihai, head of Peace Now's Settlement Watch programme, told The New Arab that it is significant for the Trump administration to meet with settler leaders.
"They are key individuals who push forward and expand the settlements in the occupied West Bank," he said.
"I can only hope that Trump understands that the settlements are the main obstacle to reaching a border solution, and enable the ongoing takeover of Palestinian land."
Israel's hardline government is dominated by the settler movement, and has been emboldened by the new Trump administration.
So far in 2017, the Netanyahu administration has announced some 6,000 new settler housing units.
The Israeli parliament has also passed a controversial bill to legalise Jewish settler outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land.
Greenblatt, Trump's special representative for international negotiations, has met a range of people on both the Palestinian and Israeli side during his visit this week, including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He was due to meet Netanyahu again on Thursday.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law and major obstacles to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israeli settlement expansion has been the subject of harsh international criticism, with many warning that it is gradually eating away at prospects for a two-state solution - the basis of years of negotiations.