How Israeli Settlements Work

The Future of Israeli Settlements
A Palestinian protester holds a placard during a demonstration against the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and against President Donald Trump. BBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

When Trump took office in January 2017, he picked a U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who regularly visited the West Bank settlement of Beit El during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, and had raised millions of dollars for educational facilities there [source: Kershner].

A few days after Trump's inauguration, the Israeli government announced plans to build 2,500 new housing units in West Bank settlements. "We are building, and will continue to build," Netanyahu said in the Jerusalem Post. Some conservative Israeli politicians even began talking openly about passing legislation to proclaim Ma'ale Adumim an official part of Israel —the first-ever annexation of a settlement.

The Israeli government's settlement push may have been too aggressive even for Trump. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, he urged Netanyahu to put the brakes on settlement development. "I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace," he said in the publication Israel Hayom.

Netanyahu did slow down a bit in response. In late March 2017, the Israeli government announced that "when possible," it would restrict construction of new settler housing in the West Bank to areas that were already developed or contiguous to developed areas. Even so, Israel still intended to go ahead with its plan to build a new settlement to house settler families who'd been forced to leave an illegal settlement the Israeli government had shut down [source: Deitch].

The future of the Israeli settlements is unclear. If a peace deal ever is struck, it seems likely that it would require the uprooting of at least some of them. But even if that happened, it might still be difficult to get some of the most committed settlers to leave. As one resident of the West Bank's Mitzpe Yericho settlement told Reuters in 2016: "It's part of Israel, according to the Bible. It's something from God."

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