The United States said Monday it was ready to recognize Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank but asked Israel’s government to also negotiate with the Palestinians.
“As we have made consistently clear, we are prepared to recognize Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the West Bank that the vision foresees as being part of the State of Israel,” a US State Department spokesperson said when asked if the US would allow Israel’s new government to move forward with the process.
The step would be “in the context of the Government of Israel agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinians along the lines set forth in President Trump’s Vision,” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel.
“The annexation would be in the context of an offer to the Palestinians to achieve statehood based upon specific terms, conditions, territorial dimensions and generous economic support. This is an unprecedented and highly beneficial opportunity for the Palestinians,” the State Department spokesperson said.
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.
The Palestinians have refused to negotiate with the Trump administration, considering it biased. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened on Wednesday to cancel all agreements with Israel and the US if Israel moved forward with annexation plans.
Monday’s comments by the State Department expanded on remarks to reporters Wednesday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said annexation was ultimately “an Israeli decision.”
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.”
“Three months ago, the Trump peace plan recognized Israel’s rights in all of Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu 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,” Netanyahu said.
According to the wording of the “emergency government” deal between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White faction, 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.
The Arab League plans to hold an urgent virtual meeting this week to galvanize opposition to the annexation plan, and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi reportedly approached counterparts in a number of countries including Russia, Germany, Egypt, Japan, Sweden and Norway to oppose the outline.
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.”
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.