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Trump Advises Israel Against New Settlements, Defends 'Tough Phone Calls' With World Leaders

WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) -- In an apparent reversal, President Donald Trump is warning Israel about building new settlements on disputed land because of the impact on peace efforts.

As CBS2's Brian Conybeare reported, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced new settlement construction in the West Bank on Thursday.

The White House released a statement saying the expansion of settlements in Palestinian controlled areas could hinder peace talks.

In December then President-elect Trump criticized the Obama administration for not vetoing a U.N. resolution against Israeli settlement construction.

On Thursday, the White House had altered its tune.

"While we don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal."

The White House said the administration, 'has not taken an official position' just yet with regard to Israel, but it is sure to come up when President Trump and Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the White House on February 15.

President Donald Trump has waded into diplomacy, but says Americans shouldn't worry about his "tough'' phone calls with world leaders.

The president spoke Thursday morning at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said the world is "in trouble'' and other countries have been taking advantage of the United States, but his administration will "straighten it out.''

"When you hear about the tough phone calls I'm having, don't worry about it. Just don't worry about it," Trump said. "We have to be tough. It's time we're going to be a little tough folks. We're taken advantage of by every nation in the world, virtually. It's not gonna happen anymore."

One policy the president said he will now review is an Obama-era deal to allow more than 1,000 Muslim refugees to leave Australia and come to the United States, CBS2's Mary Calvi reported.

"Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to taker thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why?" Trump tweeted Wednesday night. "I will study this dumb deal!"

However, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Trump has vowed to uphold the deal.

"The president assured me that he would continue with, honor, the agreement we entered into with the Obama administration with respect to refugee resettlement," he said.

Trump's comments come amid reports about his calls with leaders from Australia and Mexico, which some reports say did not go well, Calvi reported.

The White House says Trump's comment to Mexico's president that he would send U.S. troops to stop "bad hombres down there'' was "lighthearted.''

Trump also used the National Prayer Breakfast and Twitter to focus on his immigration policy. Despite protests over a recent travel ban for citizens from seven Muslim majority countries, Trump said America has to be tough, and that changes are needed in the country's immigration policies to protect American values.

"There are those that would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence, or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle," Trump said.

Later Thursday, the president met with executives from Harley Davidson and congratulated them on their success.

"We're proud of you. It's really amazing what you've done," Trump said.

Meanwhile, the White House released details about a raid in Yemen. U.S. forces targeted a compound of al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, but it turned into a tougher than expected firefight and 36-year-old Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens was killed.

The White House said Owens was a hero who died for his country.

"It is a successful operation by all standards, and again I want to reiterate it is tough to ever use the word success when you know that somebody has lost their life," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

On another front, one day after putting Iran "on notice" for launching a ballistic missile, the president said he's keeping all options open.

"Nothing is off the table," Trump said.

The administration is also dismissing reports that it softened sanctions against Russia after the Treasury Department said Thursday it will allow some companies to do limited business with Russia's federal security service. The White House said it is merely a technical fix.

Last night, Trump presided over the swearing-in of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Tillerson delivered his first remarks at the State Department Thursday morning.

"Change for the sake of change can be counter productive and that will never be my approach," Tillerson. "But we cannot sustain ineffective traditions over optimal outcomes. I will gather info on what processes should be reformed and do my part to make sure we are functioning in the most productive and efficient way possible."

Trump once again praised Tillerson Thursday for his ability to work with foreign leaders.

(TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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