White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says U.S. President Donald Trump “has asked his team to get together” in response to the news that Israel has approved the construction of 2,500 new housing units to be built in Judea and Samaria.
Earlier this week, more than 600 new housing units were approved in various Jerusalem neighborhoods, including several Arab sections.
Most of the new units are to be built in existing Jewish communities in the “major settlement blocs” with the majority close to the 1949 Armistice Line, also known as the “Green Line,” according to Tuesday’s announcement by Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
“We’re building and we’ll continue to build,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu.
The lion’s share of the housing projects are to be built in the Samaria city of Ariel, and the Jewish community of Givat Ze’ev, but at least 20 apartments were also approved for the smaller Jewish community of Beit El, in the Binyamin region.
Defense Minister Liberman added that he will also ask the cabinet to approve construction for an industrial park in the Arab community of Tarkumiya, northwest of Hebron, a project he said would become “one of the largest industrial zones in the West Bank, in which we plan to create a warehouse and fuel storage infrastructure with other elements.”
Journalists in the United States pounced on the issue during Tuesday morning’s White House news briefing, asking the press secretary what the president’s response was to the announcement.
“Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States,” Secretary Spicer replied. “He wants to grow closer with Israel and make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East and what he’s going to do as I mentioned yesterday… We’re going to have a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we’ll continue to discuss that.”
A reporter persisted: “Do you support the expansion of settlements?”
And the press secretary closed down the discussion: “Like I said, we’ll have a conversation with the prime minister. Thank you.”