Everyone was surprised yesterday when the White House issued a statement warning Israel to tone down its settlement construction announcements, faulting them for large unilateral moves and asking them to hold off pending future talks between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli officials seemed less surprised by the comments, deciding that they’re going to official interpret the comments as a full endorsement of continued settlement expansion, amounting to giving the Israeli government “carte blanche” to build as they wish with no restrictions.
How they were told “stop” and heard “go” appears to be related to previous statements from President Obama, which Trump’s statement yesterday closely mirrored. Israeli officials saw the Trump statement as softer in tone than Obama’s calls for Israel to stop building settlements, and are therefore presenting it as a net win. After all, it’s not like Obama did much of anything about Israel’s reckless expansion of settlements, and after this statement, Israel seems to reason Trump is liable to do even less.
Reflective of Israeli officials interpreting the statement as is most politically expedient to them, settler officials also took the White House comments that the settlements “might not help” the peace process as saying that the settlements definitely don’t hurt the peace process, thanking Trump for that statement.
The White House has not responded to the reinterpretation of everything they said by the Israeli government, though since President Trump has been eager to style himself as “pro-Israel,” the fact that the Israeli government is virtually re-writing his statements to say what they want them to say may well be a convenience to him.