Coalition lawmakers have agreed to delay a contentious vote on extending Israeli sovereignty to the Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma’ale Adumim by a week.
Likud MK Yoav Kisch and Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich announced on Friday that at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they would postpone putting the annexation bill to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation until the following Sunday, March 12.
The proposed legislation, vociferously condemned by the international community, has already been postponed several times in recent months. At Washington’s request, it was not presented until after the February meeting between Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump.
The Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home party has long supported legislation that would see Israel effectively annex large parts of the West Bank, starting with Ma’ale Adumim.
The controversial bill has been touted by party leader Naftali Bennett as a coalition-backed initiative.
While Trump has indicated he will be significantly more tolerant of Israeli settlements than the Obama administration, Netanyahu on Monday reportedly said the two leaders had yet to cement an agreement regarding his government’s policies in the West Bank.
Speaking at a Likud faction meeting, Netanyahu confirmed he was working with the White House to establish a “mechanism” for coordinating settlement construction, but added that “things are not as simple as you think they are.”
Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It later applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.
Most experts see Israel’s policy of extending sovereignty, in moves widely unrecognized by the international community, as tantamount to annexation.
Home to some 40,000 settlers in the Judean Desert east of Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim is widely considered in Israel to be included in any land swap deals that could be part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. However, critics argue that extending Israeli sovereignty to the large settlement, and a parcel of land known as E-1 between the capital and Ma’aleh Adumim, would effectively separate the northern and southern parts of the West Bank.
Bennett and other Jewish nationalists from his party, Likud and elsewhere have ramped up calls to effectively annex large parts of the territory Palestinians see as part of their future state since Trump’s election.
Jewish Home considers the settlement movement as a major part of its voter base and ran in elections on a platform of de facto annexation of Area C (the parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and military control) and extending a type of semi-autonomy to Palestinians in the rest of the territory.