While his predecessor’s administration would likely have come out with a quick and sharply critical response to Israel’s passing of a law which retroactively legalizes about 4,000 “settler outposts” in Judea and Samaria, President Donald Trump’s State Department remained silent after the news broke Monday night, refusing to condemn the move.
The Regulation Law has been the subject of contention and controversy in Israel, with left-wing politicians threatening that it could lead to an indictment in the International Criminal Court. The law protects thousands of existing Jewish homes in the Biblical heartland which were built with government backing but now face absentee land claims from Palestinian “owners.”
In response to the bill’s passage in the Knesset by a vote of 60-52, a US State Department official told AFP that the Trump administration was “withholding comment” until the legislation is reviewed within Israel.
“At this point, indications are that this legislation is likely to be reviewed by the relevant Israeli courts, and the Trump administration will withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling,” said the official.
The law is likely to face legal challenges from its opponents within Israel, who claim it is unconstitutional. It has already been condemned by the left-wing US Jewish lobbyist group J-Street, who called it “outrageous” and claimed it “legalized land theft.”
While last week the White House, which is expected to be lenient, if not supportive, in regards to Israel’s settlement construction, said that expanding existing settlements “may not be helpful” for future peace efforts, its decision not to speak against the latest development signals a sea change in how the new administration views Israeli settlements.
The administration would reserve judgement until it “has the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward,” the official said.