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Netanyahu: West Bank annexation ‘not off the table’; issue ‘is in Washington’

After July 1 target date came and went without action, PM has largely fallen silent on the issue

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a tree planting event for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in the West Bank settlement of Mevo'ot Yericho, in the Jordan Valley, February 10, 2020. (Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a tree planting event for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in the West Bank settlement of Mevo'ot Yericho, in the Jordan Valley, February 10, 2020. (Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told his Likud faction meeting that Israel’s planned annexation of West Bank land is not off the table, but is being held up by the US administration.

“The issue of applying sovereignty is in Washington. It’s not off the table, the option still exists,” he said.

Netanyahu had declared his intention to move forward with the partial annexation of the West Bank, under the auspices of the US peace plan, from July 1, but that date came and went without any movement on the matter, and in recent weeks, the prime minister has been largely silent on the issue.

Reports in recent months have indicated that the White House has cooled on the Israeli proposal, amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, race protests, upcoming national elections, and other considerations.

The White House has said repeatedly that it is up to Israel to decide on annexation, but has yet to give a definitive answer as to whether it is prepared to support and recognize the unilateral annexation now of part or all of the 30 percent of the West Bank allocated to Israel in its peace plan.

That would include all of the settlements along with the strategic Jordan Valley.

The plan also provides for the conditional establishment of a Palestinian state on the rest of the West Bank territory, with some additional territory inside Israel, further down the line.

Last month, Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin acknowledged in private conversations that no attention is currently being given in Washington to Israeli annexation plans, according to an Army Radio report. The US administration’s attention is elsewhere, the report claimed Levin had said, and “it is not listening” when it comes to annexation.

Palestinian farmers harvest onions in Jordan Valley in the West Bank, February 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

Netanyahu has embraced the Trump plan, at least insofar as it pertains to annexation, which has been entirely rejected by the Palestinians.

The US aside, the international community has voiced near-unanimous opposition to unilateral annexation.

Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been moribund since 2014.

In a counter to the Trump plan, the Palestinians have presented their own proposal and offered to restart direct negotiations on the basis of an Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, with minor border adjustments.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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