Israel's government approved the first West Bank settlement in two decades Thursday, creating the first serious test for President Trump's new foray into Middle East peacemaking. The White House pointedly avoided any specific condemnation of the announcement, although it said that further settlement activity "does not help advance peace" and that it expects Israel to show restraint moving forward. Still, the relatively tepid response was a far cry from the automatic condemnations voiced by the Obama administration in reaction to Israeli settlement announcements, the AP reports.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced the decision late Thursday following a meeting of his policy making Security Cabinet. Netanyahu has vowed to build a new settlement to compensate the residents of Amona, an illegal settler outpost that was demolished in February under the orders of Israel's Supreme Court. Israel has not built a full-fledged new settlement since the 1990s. Instead, construction during that period has expanded existing settlements or taken place in unauthorized outposts like Amona.