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In a marked departure from the previous administration, the Trump State Department announced a wait-and-see approach in response to a controversial Israeli settlement bill Monday.

“We are aware that the Knesset passed legislation relating to Israeli homes in the West Bank built on private Palestinian land,” America’s diplomatic arm said in a statement.

“We understand that according to Israeli law this legislation could face a number of legal challenges because, among other reasons, this is the first time since 1967 that Israeli civil law is being applied directly to the West Bank, and that Israel’s Attorney General has stated publicly that he will not defend it in court.”

The diplomats put it out there that with the bill “likely to be reviewed by the relevant Israeli courts,” the Trump administration would “withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling.”

At the same time, the State Department tried to warn “other actors” against “challeng[ing] this measure in multilateral fora, including at the International Criminal Court,” explaining, “We continue to strongly oppose actions against Israel at the ICC as counterproductive to the cause of peace.”

This note of caution was part of a larger diplomatic swing toward Israel that distinguishes the Trump administration from the Obama administration, which pointedly refused to veto a United Nations resolution condemning Israeli settlements.

It might also be smart politics. The legislation is hugely controversial even in Israel.

The bill, which would allow West Bank settlements to stay on land to which a Palestinian has a property claim so long as the settlers 1) didn’t know about the claim and 2) pay out compensation for the land at above market rates, is politically popular but legally dubious.

As the Trump administration noted, Israel’s attorney general has declined to even defend the bill before the country’s high court.

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“The chance that it will be struck down by the Supreme Court is 100 percent,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman confidently predicted to the Times of Israel last week.

Whether or not that’s a completely accurate assessent, it’s true that the legislation faces long odds before the Trump administration might be forced to sound off on it.

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