White House still undecided on annexation as delegation heads to Israel

White House still undecided on annexation as delegation heads to Israel
2 min read
26 June, 2020
US officials are still undecided about whether to back Israel's annexation of West Bank land after three days of talks, as US diplomats head to Israel for further discussions
Trump's inner circle is reportedly divided over whether to support Netanyahu's annexation plans [Getty]
The Trump administration is reportedly yet to reach a consensus over whether to support Israel's planned annexation of parts of the West Bank despite three days of talks, a White House official told the Times of Israel.

“There is yet no final decision on next steps for implementing the Trump plan,” the official said on Thursday, but added that  that discussions had been “productive.”

As part of Israel's coalition agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aims to launch the annexation process - which is slated to be carried out in "stages" - on 1 July.

Talks have concluded for the time being while US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and US Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz fly to Israel to hold further discussions on the matter.

The talks in Washington were said to include Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner and national security adviser Robert O’Brien. It was not stated whether US President Donald Trump was actively participating in the meetings.

Friedman and Berkowitz are set to land in Israel on Friday, along with pro-Netayahu newspaper Israel Hayom reported.

The delegation will hold talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu and coalition partner Benny Gantz, as the 1 July date set by the premier to begin the process of annexation is just days away.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Wednesday which suggested annexation will be given the green light.

"Decisions about Israelis extending sovereignty to those places are decisions for the Israelis to make," Pompeo told reporters.

"We are talking to all of the countries in the region about how it is we can manage this process for our end-state objective," he said.

Ambassador Friedman, a longtime advocate of the Israeli settler movement, is reportedly strongly supportive of the plans. However Jared Kushner is allegedly more reticent.

Without US support for its plans, Israel's leadership will likely not push ahead with annexation.

Trump's "peace plan" for the Middle East, unveiled in February, gave the Israeli government the green light to impose sovereignty on around 30 percent of the West Bank, comprising Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley.

However, the administration has appeared more restrained  in its support for the plans as US allies in the Middle East and beyond have voiced their vociferous opposition.

Some reports have suggested the US wants Israel to begin by applying sovereignty to two or three settlement blocs close to Jerusalem.

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