JERUSALEM (JTA) — A senior Trump administration official criticized a bill that would add several West Bank settlements to Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries hours after a committee vote on the bill was postponed.
The Greater Jerusalem Bill would increase the city’s Jewish population by about 100,000, by including four large Jewish settlements — Ma’ale Adumim, Beitar Illit, Efrat and Givat Zeev, as well as the Gush Etzion bloc. The bill stops short of actually annexing the settlements to Israel, however. The bill also would remove some 100,000 Palestinians living in neighborhoods outside the security barrier the city’s census and place them under a new municipality.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday delayed a vote on the legislation due to American pressure, according to reports. It would have been the first government vote on the bill.
“It’s fair to say that the U.S. is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations. The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions,” the senior official told JTA.
The official confirmed a meeting on Sunday in Jerusalem between Jason Greenblatt. President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the peace process, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman also participated in the meeting, which was “a general check in on peace conversations,” the official said. “They did not meet to discuss the annexation bill.”
Netanyahu told his Cabinet during its regular weekly meeting on Sunday that he has been “in touch” with the Americans over the bill, after Trump administration officials inquired about its details, Haaretz reported. He said that he was coordinating with the Americans, adding “We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise,” according to Haaretz.