Senior officials in the Biden administration told Wala!
Because the US's public announcements of the Cabinet's decision on the construction in the settlements and the training of the illegal outposts in the West Bank were only the first stage of the American response. According to them, discussions are taking place in the US State Department and the White House regarding additional steps that the administration may take to clarify its opposition to the settlements.
why is it important
Public American reaction to the Cabinet decision has been rather lackluster so far.
Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken and White House spokesmen did not use the word "condemnation" at all in the messages they published, but only emphasized that they were "deeply disturbed" and concerned" about the Israeli decision.
In Israel, they were not particularly impressed by the American public response and saw it as a signal that the Biden administration is not interested in confrontation over the settlements issue.
A senior political official said in a press briefing that Israel was not surprised by the American response.
"We have had a dispute with them about the settlements for years," he said.
Finance Minister Smotrich went even further when, at a press conference he called at one of the trained outposts, he said that the Biden administration knows that the government is committed to settlements.
"We clarified our position to the US and we are committed to removing all restrictions on construction in the settlements.
We want the settlements to receive the same treatment as any other settlement in Israel," he said.
"The tone of Blinken's message was measured. But I would not underestimate the concern that his words represent," said former US ambassador to the US Dan Shapiro, who currently works at the Atlantic Council research institute in Washington.
Former US envoy to the Middle East Martin Indyk said that if Lincoln is serious about trying to preserve the chance of implementing the two-state solution, it is not enough to tell the current Israeli government that you are concerned.
The big picture
The cabinet's decision to build about 10 thousand new housing units in the settlements and to legalize nine illegal outposts was the largest and most extensive ever.
For comparison, during the Trump administration the largest construction decision in the settlements included only 6000 housing units.
Behind the Scenes
The closed discussions that took place between the US and Israel in the days before the cabinet's decision on the expansion of the settlements were much harsher and more difficult than the public announcements made after the decision.
The one who led the talks from the Israeli side was the Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer, while from the American side were President Biden's senior adviser on the Middle East issue, Brett McGurk, and the US Ambassador to Israel, Tom Neides.
Three senior American officials said that the talks that took place between the parties before the cabinet decision were very difficult and at certain stages even rose to extremely high tones and heated debates about the policy.
The Prime Minister's Office did not deny this description.
The White House refused to comment on the matter, but other senior American officials claimed that the talks were conducted in a civilized manner.
McGurk and Neides expressed in the closed conversations a strong opposition to any construction in the settlements and even more so to the training of the outposts.
An Israeli official noted that Dermer told the American officials that training the outposts was part of the coalition agreements with the religious Zionist parties and Otzma Yehudit.
A senior American said that in response the Biden administration clarified that Netanyahu's coalition agreements are not his problem.
A senior Israeli official said that Dermer made it clear to the Americans that Netanyahu's coalition partners demanded an even more extensive move in the settlements.
According to him, Finance Minister Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir wanted the promotion of the planning and construction of 14,000 housing units and the training of about twenty outposts.
Netanyahu's advisers told senior US administration officials that the prime minister was able to moderate the decision.
"Netanyahu told the Americans that a single-digit number of outposts would be trained, and it really was," said an Israeli senior official who was not specific.
Israel made it clear to the US that out of the approved construction, only 2,500 housing units will be built immediately, while the rest are only plans that will be gradually promoted, and that some of them will be built on the ground only in eight years.
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Senior American officials said that they stressed to the Israelis that there would be a strong reaction from the administration to the decision to build it.
According to them, in an attempt to calm the government, the Israelis said that there would be no further announcement about construction in the settlements for a long period of time.
One American senior official said that Netanyahu's advisers initially claimed that there would be no further announcement about construction in the settlements for a year, but later changed their version to six months.
Officials in the Prime Minister's office denied the statements and said that no commitment was given for a specific period of time.
A source close to Finance Minister Smotrich said that the next announcement about construction in the settlements will most likely be within three months when the Supreme Planning Council of the Civil Administration meets again in May.
Senior American officials have admitted that they cannot be sure whether the messages of reassurance they received from Israel regarding the next time construction in the settlements will be approved will actually materialize in reality.
Why pay attention?
Shapiro said that the Netanyahu government's decision regarding the settlements could harm the ability of the Biden administration to work with Israel on major issues such as normalization with Arab countries or handling the Iranian threat.
The UN Security Council is expected to convene within a few days to vote on a proposed resolution promoted by the Palestinians against Israel's policy in the territories and especially the construction in the settlements. The Biden administration will be in a dilemma whether to veto the resolution.
"The only thing that will make the Israeli government stop when it comes to settlements is if the American administration does something - or rather doesn't do something - in the Security Council," Indik said.