Is President Trump Pressuring Israel on Settlement Issues – Or Not?

(Andrew Friedman/TPS) – There are conflicting reports Sunday about government plans to capitalize quickly on the inauguration of US President Donald Trump to table a series of initiatives regarding Israeli policy in Yehudah and Shomron.

News reports over the weekend indicated that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked Education Minister Naftali Bennett not to bring his proposal to annex Ma’aleh Adumim for a vote in the powerful Knesset Legislation Committee in light of pressure from the Trump administration not to “surprise” the new president with unilateral moves.

However, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said Sunday that he would, in fact, table a series of proposals to the cabinet intended to re-write Israeli policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the wider Middle East.

But a spokesperson for Katz told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) that Katz plans to table the proposal to the cabinet today, and added that the plan has been coordinated with both the prime minister and the president.

The cornerstone of the proposal is a plan for the creation of ‘greater metropolitan Yerushalayim, based on large capital cities including London and Paris, by expanding the city’s borders and bolstering the Jewish majority. The plan calls for applying Israeli law to all Jewish communities in the Yerushalayim area: Ma’aleh Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Gush Etzion and Beitar Illit and defining them as part of metropolitan Jerusalem, while also maintaining their municipal independence.

A similar network will be established for Arab neighborhoods outside the security fence that are separated today from receiving municipal services.

In addition, the plan calls for the construction of a ‘separation island’ off the Gaza Strip – an artificial island with a port and, desalination and energy facilities that will be connected by a bridge to Gaza which will provide Palestinians with the ability to travel abroad while also protecting Israeli security.

In addition, the “pathways to the east” project will consist of a rail network connecting Jordan and the Sunni Arab countries to the Mediterranean Sea and the Chaifa port.

“We must decide what Israeli policies are on building and settlement, and make these clear to the United States. [These policies will] allow us to build freely in Yerushalayim for all parts of the population…this will strengthen Israel’s position and improve the situation in the region and does not contradict the possibility of negotiations for a diplomatic agreement in future.

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