White House officials appeared to show understanding of the Israeli government’s decision to build a new settlement in the West Bank for the first time in 20 years, despite condemnations of the move at the United Nations and by the Palestinians.
One official told The Times of Israel last week that “we would note that the Israeli prime minister made a commitment to the Amona settlers prior to President Trump laying out his expectations” that Israel reduce construction in settlements. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Earlier in the day, Israel’s security cabinet gave the go-ahead for the building of a settlement for Jewish residents of Amona, a West Bank outpost of 40 homes that was evacuated in February.
In February, President Donald Trump said that he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements a little bit.” Earlier in February, Trump had said settlement expansion “may not be helpful” in achieving peace.
The official interviewed by The Times of Israel also indicated that Jerusalem had agreed to restrain settlement construction after the new community.
“President Trump has publicly and privately expressed his concerns regarding settlements. As the administration has made clear, while the existence of settlements is not in itself an impediment to peace, further unrestrained settlement activity does not help advance peace,” the official said.
“The Israeli government has made clear that going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the president’s concerns into consideration. The United States welcomes this.”
A spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “disappointment and alarm” at the announcement.
“The secretary-general has consistently stressed that there is no Plan B for Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace and security,” Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. “He condemns all unilateral actions that, like the present one, threaten peace and undermine the two-state solution.”
Palestinian and Arab leaders also condemned the announcement of the new settlement.
It is part of “systematic policies of settler colonialism, apartheid and ethnic cleansing, showing a total and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights,” senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said.
Based on interviews with Israeli officials, they and American counterparts, including Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s envoy to talks between Israelis and Palestinians on resolving the conflict, have worked out an understanding on settlement construction, the nrg news site reported. The agreement limits construction to the preexisting urban footprint of settlements and forbids the building of outposts, according to nrg.
NYC to automatically ban mohels linked to newborn herpes cases
The New York City Health Department said it will ban ritual circumcisers automatically if the infant they treated orally develops a herpes infection.
The ban would affect those who perform the ritual known as metzitzah b’peh, in which the person performing the circumcision, known as a mohel, sucks blood from the wound following circumcision. It is a common practice among many haredi Orthodox Jews. When performed directly with the mouth as opposed to through a sterile pipette, it has been linked directly to the transmission of the herpes virus.
Under the new regulation, “every time there is a mohel who performed metzitzah b’peh on an infant who has contracted HSV-1, the Health Department will serve them with Commissioner’s orders banning them from performing the ritual,” The Jewish Week of New York reported last week, quoting city officials. HSV-1 is a type of herpes.
The Health Department will now ban the mohels linked to cases of herpes in newborns without testing for the virus, the newspaper reported. Prior to the regulation, the ban would be issued only pending tests both of the mohel and the baby.
The adoption of the new rule followed one day after the city’s health commissioner confirmed that two mohels have been banned from practicing metzitzah b’peh. Some 24 cases of herpes allegedly contracted through metzitzah b’peh have been reported in New York since 2000, according to the board of health.
Under both the previous policy and the new one, the city is relying on the mohels to self-enforce. A city spokeswoman told The Jewish Week that privacy rules prevent health officials from releasing the names of banned mohels. Banned mohels will be hit with a $2,000 fine if they do not come forward.
Rabbi Levi Heber, a prominent Crown Heights mohel, said the new policy “is what some would call a witch hunt or a modern-day blood libel,” The Jewish Week reported.
Critics of metzitzah b’peh said it would help protect infants from the risks it carries by discouraging mohels from performing the ritual.