Netanyahu and Greenblatt
Netanyahu and Greenblatt GPO photo

President Donald Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt asked Israel to cease building in communities in Judea and Samaria located outside of the so-called “settlement blocs”, an Israeli source privy to Greenblatt’s talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told Haaretz on Wednesday.

According to the source, during the talks, which took place in Israel last week, Greenblatt made it clear that the Trump administration wants Israel to place substantial restrictions on its construction.

The source added that Greenblatt said that the U.S. would tacitly accept Israeli construction in Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, as well as construction in settlement blocs within limits bilaterally agreed upon. That being said, the formula Greenblatt presented included an American request that Israel not build in communities outside the blocs at all, without exception.

According to Haaretz, Netanyahu expressed reservation at the American proposal, especially a public and official moratorium on construction outside the blocs. The main reason is that Netanyahu believes that he will have a hard time passing such a formula within his coalition in light of opposition from many Likud ministers, as well as those from the Jewish Home.

Following last week’s meeting, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that the two confirmed the shared commitment of Israel and the United States “to promote a real and lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, that will strengthen Israel's security and the stability in the region.”

The statement also said the two agreed to try to reach a formula on Israeli construction that will promote “peace and security”.

Netanyahu told journalists before he left China for Israel on Wednesday that there has been "significant progress" in recent talks between U.S. and Israeli negotiators in recent days regarding that formula.

Talks between Israeli and American negotiators began in the White House on Monday in an effort to reach understandings on the issue. 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 Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

According to Haaretz, Horowitz, Schachter and the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, met on Monday with 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.