Trump said “hold back on settlements,” but Netanyahu’s coalition is clashing over what that means.
President Donald Trump’s request of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in their joint press conference last month that he “hold back on settlements for a bit” has undergone Talmudic levels of parsing by everyone from seasoned diplomats to late-night hosts in Israel and the United States. The debate on what exactly “holding back” and “a bit” mean is creating tensions in Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, where many are calling for annexation.
A poll last week indicated that 55 percent of Israelis think Trump will allow settlement construction, while the opposition, which ranges from centrist to far-left, is focused more on “hold back” than “a bit.” Meanwhile, the debate in the coalition came to a head when Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman said he “received a direct message—not an indirect message and not a hint—from the United States” that annexation talk could launch a crisis. Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, however, said that never happened, and anyway, the United States can’t tell Israel, a sovereign country, what to do. Continue reading