Biden and Bennett
Biden and BennettReuters

The Biden Administration sent a quiet message to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office requesting that new construction be curbed in Jewish localities in Judea and Samaria.

According to a report by Barak Ravid on the Walla news site, the issue of construction in Judea and Samaria has the potential to become a hotbed for tension between Israel and the United States, but both the White House and the Prime Minister's Office want to avoid this and are trying to reach understandings through quiet channels.

US chargé d’affaires in Jerusalem Michael Ratney called senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office last week and said the Biden administration would like to see restraint or reduction in new planning and construction in the settlements. Ratney also expressed concern over Israeli construction in the strategically important E1 area between Jerusalem and Ma'ale Adumim.

According to the report, in the six weeks since Bennett returned from Washington, no date has been set for the convening of the Civil Administration's Supreme Planning Council to approve the promotion of construction plans in the settlements. A senior Israeli official said that "there is a great deal of sensitivity at the moment with the Americans when it comes to settlements. That is why the promotion of new construction is delayed."

Yesha Council chairman David Elhayani responded to the report and said: "The Biden Administration should not interfere in the internal affairs of the State of Israel. President Biden knows that damage to settlement building in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley means the fall of the current government."

Elhayani stressed: "We will not tolerate this gross American intervention, and we will not give up on the continuation of construction as it has been in recent years. We expect Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to reject this demand outright."

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked ruled out talks on Palestinian statehood, both during Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s term, as well as after Yair Lapid rotates in as premier.

Speaking with the UAE-based news outlet The National, Shaked said that “he Israeli government won’t deliberate on the establishment of a Palestinian state under the present government of Bennett or Lapid when he comes into office under the rotational agreement.”

“There is a consensus among the parties [in the government] not to get involved in the issue, which could cause an internal rift.”

“We believe in economic peace as a means of improving Palestinians lives and to create cooperative industrial zones. But not a state with an army, absolutely not.”

Shaked pushed back on the description of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria as being “illegal settlements,” calling the area “disputed territory”.

The Interior Minister also slammed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as “hypocritical”.

“They’re anti-Semitic by opposing Israel’s right to exist. BDS is the new form of anti-Semitism.”