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People Will Be Talking About The 'Knesset' As Israel's Prime Minister Meets Trump


It's time now for Words You'll Hear. That's where we look at upcoming news stories through the words associated with those stories. Today, our word is the Knesset. That's Israel's parliament. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives in Washington on Tuesday, and we expect a clear understanding of White House-Middle East policy to emerge, especially given a controversial move by the Knesset legalizing an expansion of settlements on the West Bank. That's land captured by Israel in 1967 that Palestinians have been living on for generations.

We reached Shmuel Rosner, a political editor of the Jewish Journal in Tel Aviv, and I asked him about President Trump's recent criticism of West Bank settlements.

SHMUEL ROSNER: Well, it was not really a warning, but it was an indication that President Trump is not going to be as favorable towards more Israeli settlements. It's clear that President Trump, on the one hand, would like to be as friendly towards Israel as he possibly can. Yet, on the other hand, he maintains his ambition to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

And he realized that doing such thing while encouraging more Israeli settlements in the West Bank might be impossible for him, so he's trying to criticize Israel. Yet, on the other hand, he does indicate to Israel that Israel is not going to get a free hand on settlement expansion.

SINGH: I think it's important to note Trump's senior adviser and his ambassador helped build these settlements. Is there something I'm missing here? Are these not opposing viewpoints?

ROSNER: Well, not necessarily, because the settlements are not all of the same type. President Trump can take a position according to which some of the settlements are OK, some of the settlements can stay and can even expand. The Bush administration and Israel did have a certain understanding that the main blocs of settlements in the West Bank are going to permanently stay within or under Israeli jurisdiction. So President Trump can still say I support some of the settlement project, but I do oppose an expansion taking more land by settlement activity in the West Bank.

SINGH: Critics continue to argue that this law we're talking about seems to represent a step away from an independent state for Palestinians. What do you think the next step will be among the Palestinians and in Israel given this latest dispute?

ROSNER: I'm not sure if this law in and of itself is an obstacle to peace. And besides, it is pretty clear that the Israeli high court is likely to strike down this legislation. It's a highly controversial legislation. The Knesset ignored all legal advice, decided to pass the legislation, but I assume that some of the legislators themselves - they just wanted to have the benefit of both supporting the law and not having it as actual legislation in Israel.

SINGH: Shmuel, you referenced earlier that, you know, Trump had said that he has a desire for there to be a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. And I'm just wondering how is that achievable without the Knesset support?

ROSNER: I'm not at all sure that President Trump's assessment of the situation is quite realistic. If you look at the public opinion polls - both of Israelis and Palestinians - you'll easily find out that most of them are quite pessimistic about the prospect for peace in the near future.

SINGH: That is Shmuel Rosner. He is a columnist for The New York Times and political editor of the Jewish Journal. Shmuel, thank you so much for joining us.

ROSNER: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.