Netanyahu confident Trump will okay West Bank annexation in ‘couple of months’

PM tells conference he plans to fulfill election vow to apply Israeli sovereignty over settlements and Jordan Valley, ‘celebrate historic moment in history of Zionism’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that he was “confident” US President Donald Trump would let him fulfill his election promise to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank “a couple of months from now.”

“For decades I have been fighting those who sought to deny the millennia-long connection of the Jewish people to our homeland,” Netanyahu said in a recorded speech broadcast at an event marking the 100th anniversary of the San Remo conference. “I’m proud to say that the decades-long struggle has borne fruit.”

“Three months ago, the Trump peace plan recognized Israel’s rights in all of Judea and Samaria,” he said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name. “And President Trump pledged to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there and in the Jordan Valley.

“A couple of months from now, I’m confident that that pledge will be honored. That we will be able to celebrate another historic moment in the history of Zionism. A century after San Remo, the promise of Zionism is being realized,” Netanyahu concluded at the end of the conference, organized by the European Coalition for Israel.

The San Remo conference in April 1920 confirmed decisions taken at the Paris Peace Conference by a council of European countries following World War I, including confirming the British Mandate in Palestine and the adoption of the 1917 Balfour Declaration allocating the land for a future Jewish state.

The Trump peace plan unveiled earlier this year — which angered the Palestinians and was rejected by much of the international community — gave Israel the green light to annex settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley area.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plants a tree during an event for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat, in the West Bank settlement of Mevo’ot Yeriho, in the Jordan Valley, February 10, 2020. (Flash90)

According to the wording of the “emergency government” deal between the Likud and Blue and White parties, starting July 1, 2020, Netanyahu “will be able to bring the agreement reached with the US on the application of sovereignty [in the West Bank] for the approval of the cabinet and or the Knesset.”

In addition, “the law will be passed as quickly as possible… and will not be disrupted or delayed by the chairmen of either the House or the Foreign Affairs and Defense committees.”

The Netanyahu-Gantz deal stipulates that any Israeli action would need US backing, and must take into account Israel’s peace treaties with neighboring Jordan and Egypt, the only two Arab states that have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.

The prospect of annexation has recently drawn international condemnation.

Channel 13 reported Saturday that Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi had reportedly approached counterparts in a number of countries including Russia, Germany, Egypt, Japan, Sweden and Norway.

Jordan was said to have warned that a possible annexation would have a “devastating effect,” marking the end of a two-state solution and having potentially explosive consequences for the Middle East. According to the report, the overtures made by Safadi were in coordination with the Palestinians, who have launched a campaign against annexation.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (L) meets with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi on June 09, 2019, in Amman. (Khalil MAZRAAWI / AFP)

In addition, the Arab League is due to hold an emergency meeting on the matter, Channel 13 reported.

Senior officials in the European Union and United Nations on Thursday warned Israel against the intention to annex parts of the West Bank, with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell saying that such a move “would constitute a serious violation of international law.”

Borrell said the 27-member bloc does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the territory and that it will “continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”

The Foreign Ministry slammed Borrell over his statement.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, January 31, 2020. (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

“It’s unfortunate that Josep Borrell, who pretends to be responsible for the foreign relations of the European Union, chooses in this manner to welcome a new government of a central partner to the EU and prefers to see relations between Israel and the EU through the prism of the pandemic and the ‘status of the territories,’” the ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in a video briefing with the Security Council, which holds a meeting each month on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the UN Middle East peace envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, said an Israeli annexation would deal a “devastating blow” to the internationally backed two-state solution, and “close the door to a renewal of negotiations and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”

Netanyahu’s right-wing base is eager to move forward with annexation while the friendly Trump administration is in office.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians seek those territories as part of a future independent state. Annexation of West Bank settlements would infuriate the Palestinians and Israel’s Arab neighbors.

Agencies and Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

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