Stories by Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 news

Behind the scenes of Trump's shift on Israeli settlements

(L-R) Pompeo, Netanyahu and Friedman visit the Western Wall Tunnels in Jerusalem. Photo: Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman pushed for a change to the U.S. position on the legality of Israeli settlements early in the Trump administration, but former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opposed the move.

Behind the scenes: Friedman, the key driver behind the major policy shift announced yesterday, raised the issue again when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came in. This time he got a "green light," U.S. officials tell me.

U.S. gave Benny Gantz a heads-up on settlements announcement

Gantz. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's announcement yesterday on the legality of Israeli settlements, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman notified Benny Gantz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's political rival, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, effectively tied with Netanyahu in Israel's election two months ago. Gantz was asked to form a government after Netanyahu failed to do so, but his mandate expires on Wednesday. There was speculation that the U.S. announcement was timed to help Netanyahu politically.

Trump's settlements announcement underscores partisan divide on Israel

Netanyahu in Congress in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement today on Israeli settlements was a major shift in U.S. policy and gives the settlements project diplomatic backing, but otherwise has few practical implications.

Why it matters: What the decision will do is deepen the divide between Democrats and Republicans on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The shift on the legal status of the settlements will continue to erode bipartisan support for Israel — especially with the U.S. entering an election year.