Ambassador Danon Replies to White House Statement: ‘Israel Sets Its Own Policies’

General view of Ariel, in the Shomron. (Flash90)

Israel appreciates its relationship with the United States, but everyone has to keep in mind that Israel is an independent country that sets its own policy, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said Friday. Speaking to Israel Radio, Danon said that a statement by the White House that Israeli settlement construction was “not helpful” to the peace process did not necessarily constitute an “about face” by the administration on what many Israelis had perceived to be a favorable view to Israeli construction in Yehudah and Shomron.

The United States has traditionally differed with Israel on construction in Yehudah and Shomron, Danon said. “What was true in the past still holds true. We will never agree with the United States on everything, but there is good communication and we have open channels. I believe the coming period will be much more positive for Israel than the past eight years have been,” said Danon.

In the statement, the White House said that “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.” The statement was careful to note that the administration “has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month,” adding that the “American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years,” and that Mr. Trump “hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region.”

Israel has announced the construction of as many as 6,000 new homes in Yehudah and Shomron over the past week, with the latest announced Wednesday by Netanyahu, to replace the homes of residents of Amona who were evicted from their homes this week. Commenting on those announcements, the office of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that “things are getting back to normal in Yehudah and Shomron,” while Netanyahu’s office said that “Israel has been building and will continue to build.”

According to reports, newly installed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke with Netanyahu after the statement was issued. Israeli officials quoted on Israel Radio said that they believed that the statement was issued as a matter of form, in order to reduce pressure for condemnation of Israel’s move by European countries like France, which vociferously slammed the Israeli announcements.

In an interview on the day after the election, David Friedman, President Trump’s choice for American ambassador to Israel, told Army Radio that “Israel will have an extraordinarily good friend in the White House, one who will treat Israel with love and respect, and one who appreciates the miracle of Israel. It will be a very welcome change from the past 8 years.”