Netanyahu does about face on annexation

Benjamin Netanyahu / Photo: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters, Reuters

The US administration has made it clear that it expects Israel to refrain from unilateral steps concerning the West Bank in the immediate future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has deferred plans to impose Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea area, and Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). Netanyahu had intended to bring the proposal before the government for a decision next week, but at this stage he does not have backing from Washington for the move. Over the past twenty-four hours, he has received several messages from the White House and from the architects of the "Deal of the Century" peace plan to that effect.

Netanyahu, who left Washington for Moscow last night, changed the tone of his briefings to reporters. On the day of the unveiling of the US peace plan, he was unambiguous about the annexation decision, and even said that there was no connection between that and the bilateral committee that US President Donald Trump announced in the course of the festive launch of the plan. Yesterday, before Netanyahu boarded the plane for Moscow, reporters were briefed that the decision would be postponed.

On Tuesday evening, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was one of the chief architects of the peace plan, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that a technical team needed t work on the plan and that joint steps were necessary before Israeli sovereignty was imposed. Yesterday, the plan's other main designer, Jason Greenblatt, formerly President Trump's special envoy to the Middle East, told representatives of Jewish organizations in the US that Israel needed to get through the election and that he did not see progress being made on the plan before that. "We will have to wait and see. There is still much work to be done with the Israeli government, but the Israelis are quite united on this issue," Greenblatt said.

Yesterday, Kushner repeated that technical steps that he said might take months were required before annexation, and that the administration expected that nothing would happen until these steps were completed, among them the formation of a professional committee to draw the exact maps.

In other words, the Americans do not see any substantive steps being taken before the Israeli election and even for some time after that.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other US officials have made similar statements, and in the end, Netanyahu's staff decided to postpone the declaration of annexation, and it is not clear at all that it will be made before the election on March 2.

Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein had earlier said that he would convene the Knesset plenum immediately to approve any annexation decision. 

A member of Netanyahu's staff told "Globes" that after the successful trip to Washington and the return flight via Moscow following the pardon given by Russian president Vladimir Putin to Naama Issachar, the Israeli jailed in Russia for carrying drugs, matters would be reviewed over the weekend and it would then be decided what to do. He added that one measure that could be implemented and over which there was no dispute with the Americans was the annexation of Maaleh Adumim, the Jewish West Bank town near Jerusalem.

Netanyahu will land in Israel tomorrow, probably bringing Issachar with him. He will meet Putin briefly in Moscow to thank him for releasing Issachar and to discuss the Trump peace plan. He will very likely hear opposition to any annexation steps.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on January 30, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Benjamin Netanyahu / Photo: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters, Reuters
Benjamin Netanyahu / Photo: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters, Reuters
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