JERUSALEM— A top Israeli minister close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed rare criticism of President Donald Trump on Monday and said he expects the government to approve more construction in settlements next week.
Zeev Elkin said he is “disappointed” that Trump hasn’t fulfilled his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Israel considers Jerusalem, home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, as its capital. Palestinians demand east Jerusalem, which Israeli captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, for the capital of their future state, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Trump has backed away from the campaign pledge on the embassy move as his Mideast envoy attempts to breathe life into peace talks, which last collapsed in 2014.
“There were very clear election promises, not to the state of Israel but to the American voter, of moving the embassy and I very much regret the delay,” Elkin told Army Radio.
He said that it was “incorrect” to claim that relocating the embassy “will prevent peace.”
“What prevents peace … is the conduct of the Palestinian leadership that in a clear way chooses to continue to promote the atmosphere of hatred and terror against Israel,” he said.
Criticism of Trump is rare in Netanyahu’s right wing coalition government.
Trump is more sympathetic to settlements than his predecessor Barack Obama, who together with the international community considers them illegal and obstacles to Palestinian statehood.
Two decades of U.S.-led peace plans have called for evacuating settlements to make room for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Netanyahu’s hard-line base opposes such a move, citing religious, security or nationalistic grounds.
Channel 2 TV reported that Israel is set to approve about 4,000 housing units in the West Bank. Elkin said he expects the government will greenlight construction next week.