Netanyahu seeks to soothe US concerns over settlement repeal

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to back down on Wednesday, saying his government has no intention of returning to four abandoned settlements in the occupied West Bank under a law that was repealed by parliament this week.

His statement followed harsh U.S. criticism and an international uproar over Netanyahu's far-right government, the country's most hard-line ever, over the Knesset vote early Tuesday to revoke a 2005 law that dismantled the four settlements.

The Biden administration summoned Israel's ambassador in Washington hours after the vote — a rare rebuke between the allies. Jordan's parliament, meanwhile, in a largely symbolic vote, approved the expulsion of Israel's envoy over the conduct of a firebrand minister.

Netanyahu said the Knesset vote on Tuesday ended a period that discriminated against and humiliated Jews by not allowing them to live in "northern Samaria," using the biblical term for the West Bank.

"That said," he said, "the government has no intention to build new settlements in these areas."

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman expressed America's concern to Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog in Washington over the Knesset's vote. Just days earlier, Israel had pledged not to approve new settlement construction or take unilateral actions. Since the 2005 law, Israeli citizens have been officially banned from returning to the four locations, though the Israeli military has allowed activists to visit and pray there.

Critics fear the vote could clear the way for rebuilding the four settlements, abandoned nearly 20 years ago when Israeli forces pulled out of the Gaza Strip, and further set back Palestinian hopes for statehood. Most of the international community considers Israel's West Bank...

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