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White House: No sanctions on Israel

The White House is flatly denying that it is weighing economic sanctions against Israel over its settlement expansions into the West Bank.

Press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday said reports the administration was considering such economic penalties were “completely unfounded and without merit.”

{mosads}The spokesman said the administration remained concerned about the settlement construction and had made that frustration “known very clearly” to the government of Israel.

“We believe that those actions are counterproductive, that they don’t serve to facilitate the kind of trust that we believe is necessary for both sides to try to hammer out their differences in a way that is consistent with the national security concerns of the Israeli people and with the broader aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Earnest said.

But the press secretary said that, while the U.S. would continue to “criticize” such action, administration officials were not contemplating a sanctions regime.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last week that the White House was considering “taking action” against Israel over the settlements. The conservative website the Free Beacon, in aggregating the story, suggested those steps could include sanctions.

The stories prompted an outcry from congressional Republicans.

“Recent reports suggest that your administration has held classified meetings over the past several weeks to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions against Israel for its decision to construct homes in East Jerusalem,” said a letter sent Friday by 48 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Israel is one of our strongest allies, and the mere notion that the administration would unilaterally impose sanctions against Israel is not only unwise, but is extremely worrisome.”

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