Four days after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Israeli government announced that it would build 2,500 new housing units in the West Bank. In another era—as in anytime before two weeks ago—this kind of announcement would have immediately drawn censure from the State Department and perhaps even the president. Instead, the White House said nothing. Palestinian officials, international observers, and some Israelis were dismayed. On the Israeli right, there was jubilation: “We’re going back to normal life in Judea and Samaria” Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a statement, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.
Emboldened by Trump’s recent signaling toward Israel, which has included a pledge to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and the appointment of David Friedman—a pro-settlement real-estate lawyer—to serve as his ambassador to the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to test the boundaries of this new dynamic. On Wednesday, the Israeli government announced plans for the construction of 3,000 new housing units in the West Bank and, on Thursday, Netanyahu declared that a new West Bank settlement would be established, the first since the early 1990s.