(JNS.org) In a departure from the Obama administration, the White House was mum on the latest announcement of Israeli settlement construction.
On Tuesday, Israel approved the construction of 2,500 new homes for the West Bank, which was the largest announcement in several years.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was silent on the Israeli announcement, a stark departure from the Obama administration that routinely criticized Israeli construction and considered it an obstacle to peace.
"Israel continues to be a huge ally of the United States," Spicer said without directly addressing the issue of settlements. "(Trump) wants to grow closer with Israel to make sure that it gets the full respect that it deserves in the Middle East.”
However, Spicer did add that Trump will discuss the settlements issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their expected meeting in Washington next month.
While most of the 2,500 settlements are within main settlement blocs, according to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, approximately 100 units are in the Jewish community of Beit El near Ramallah, which the Trump Foundation donated $10,000 to in 2003. Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, also has close ties with Beit El as well as Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who has also donated to the community.
Meanwhile, Spicer was also asked about a report that former President Barack Obama transferred approximately $221 million to the Palestinian Authority just hours before Trump took office. While Spicer did not directly answer the question, he said that Trump "is very concerned on how American taxpayer money is being spent" and will be "examining all aspects of that.”