Annexation can still happen in July, US source tells ‘Post’
The White House peace team is expected to further discuss how to implement its Middle East vision on Wednesday, a person familiar with the discussions told The Jerusalem Post.
Sovereignty moves, in accordance with US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, are “still possible” this month, the source said. The peace team, led by Special Adviser to the US President Jared Kushner, plans to have a series of discussions following a visit to Israel last week by Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz and National Security Council Member Scott Leith, at the end of which Trump is expected to weigh in.
Recent discussions between officials in both countries have been mostly focused on ways to cooperate in fighting COVID-19 – with both countries showing a sharp increase in cases in recent weeks – and not sovereignty, another Trump administration source said Tuesday.
Last week, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said several times any sovereignty moves must wait until Israel is done handling the pandemic and related economic crisis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Gantz’s statements, saying the Blue and White Party is not relevant to his decisions on the matter.
Neither mentioned sovereignty in their statements to their Knesset factions on Monday.
The Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace” would allow Israel to apply sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley. The rest of the West Bank would be designated for a demilitarized Palestinian state, if the Palestinian Authority meets certain conditions, such as stopping incitement to terrorism and granting civil rights.
The coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White said Netanyahu could bring extending sovereignty to a vote in the cabinet or Knesset as early as July 1. He did neither, only saying discussions on the matter were continuing.
Netanyahu has yet to divulge whether he plans to extend Israeli law to the full 30% the Trump plan offers or less. Gantz is thought to prefer a move that would only include major settlement blocs.
International opposition to any annexation moves continued on Tuesday, as the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany warned against any changes to Israel’s eastern border.
Such a move “could also have an impact on relations with Israel,” they warned.
The ministers held a videoconference, and at its conclusion they determined they would not recognize any extension of Israeli law in the West Bank unless the Palestinians agreed to it.
“We unanimously believe that any annexation of the Palestinian Territories occupied in 1967 would violate international law and jeopardize the foundations of the peace process,” they said in a statement released after the meeting.
Sovereignty steps by Israel “would have serious implications for the security and stability of the region and would be a major obstacle to efforts to achieve a full and just peace,” they added.
The ministers also discussed ways to encourage the Israeli and Palestinian sides to return to the negotiating table.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in a phone call with Netanyahu on Monday night, also spoke out against Israel extending its sovereignty.
Netanyahu’s office said he “clarified in the conversation that Israel is prepared to negotiate based on the Trump peace plan, which is a creative and realistic plan that does not repeat the failed equations of the past.”
A readout from the UK Foreign Office said Johnson “set out his concerns about plans to annex parts of the West Bank unilaterally and cautioned that this would set back the prospects for peace in the region.”
Johnson encouraged Netanyahu to negotiate with the Palestinians, while reiterating “his personal support for Israel.”
Last week, Johnson made a plea to the Israeli government via an article in Yediot Aharonot not to annex parts of the West Bank and to instead return to the negotiating table.