Defense Chief Lieberman: U.S. Warned of 'Immediate Crisis' With Trump if Israel Annexed West Bank

As lawmakers call for annexation without giving Palestinians voting rights, Avigdor Lieberman says Israel should clearly state it has no intention of imposing Israeli law on West Bank.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, March 6, 2017.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, March 6, 2017. Olivier Fitoussi

The U.S. administration told Israel that annexing the West Bank would lead to an immediate crisis between the two countries, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told lawmakers on Monday.

"We received a direct message… imposing Israeli sovereignty [on the West Bank] would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration," Lieberman told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "The coalition should clearly state that there is no intention to impose [Israeli] sovereignty."

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The defense chief referred to recent calls by lawmakers, including by Miki Zohar (Likud), a member of the governing coalition, to annex the West Bank. "The two-state solution is dead," Zohar, told news channel i24 on Sunday, while insisting that the one-state alternative would be democratic even though Palestinians would not automatically be allowed to vote in elections.

"I'm getting calls from all of the world wanting to know if this is the position of the coalition," said Lieberman. "As far of my opinion is concerned, we need to separate from the Palestinians and not to integrate them. The decision to annex Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) would mean the integration of 2.7 million Palestinians in Israel."

Lieberman said he was not worried about the international community's reaction to Israel annexing the West Bank. "According to Israeli law," he said, the Palestinians would "have to receive at least residency status. That means that from the first day, 20 billion shekels just from the National Insurance Institute in unemployment benefits, maternity allowances and other payments. I'm not even talking about the budgets of the Interior Ministry, the Housing Ministry and other offices that will also go there."

Speaking about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Lieberman shifted the blame to Hamas. "We can't have Hamas investing hundreds of millions of dollars in building tunnels and rockets and that we would pay from the taxpayers' money for electricity and water for the Gaza Strip," he said.

Lieberman also spoke of an incident in the West Bank, where Palestinians were filmed throwing rocks at Border Police officers. On Friday, one Palestinian was arrested after Palestinians threw stones at a Border Police vehicle in t town of Nabi Saleh.

The police force did not act as expected of them, Lieberman said. "You don't know if they are charging at you with a stone, with a firebomb or a hand grenade." He said the force should have followed procedure for arresting suspects, and the he would expect the force to "fire into the air and later to the legs."

"The fact that the masked men were unharmed is wrong," Lieberman said, noting that army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eiskenkot agrees with his assessment.