Jared Kushner, senior advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, said on Monday that the U.S. government does not plan on giving Israel permission to annex parts of the West Bank "for some time," and that Israel will not follow through with annexation without U.S. approval.
In a press conference, Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, said that the United States hopes that Israel will honor this commitment. "Israel has agreed with us that they will not move forward without our consent, and we do not plan to give our consent for some time."
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He added, "We want Israel to focus on creating new relationships and new alliances. That land is land that right now, Israel quite frankly controls. It's Israelis who are living there. It's not going anywhere. There shouldn't be any urgency for them to apply Israeli law, and so we believe they will stick to their agreement." Trump earned the trust of the Israeli public and government after he moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Kushner said, which will hold Israel to its word.
"Israel has made a very generous offer for a state and for land swaps, and the ball is in the Palestinians' court now," Kushner said. "They said they would come back and negotiate" if Israel were to halt its annexation plans, Kushner added. "That has now happened. We'll see what they decide to do," emphasizing that he will not "chase" Palestinian leaders if they do not want to help themselves.
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He added that the Trump administration's Middle East plan marked the first time that Israel agreed to two states according to an established map, and made progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state – "a major breakthrough that changed the view of a lot of people in the region about Israel's seriousness to actually make concessions to solve this long-standing conflict."
In an interview broadcast by Sky News Arabia to the UAE Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the United States requested that Israel freeze annexation at this point. He added that Israel agreed to do so in order to "widen the circle of peace," that that the move would increase the chances of peace with other countries.
Israel agreed to put annexing West Bank territory on hold to advance its normalization agreement with the United Arab Emirates, the country announced on Thursday. On Sunday, officials in Israel and the UAE started to hammer out the details of the agreement to establish full diplomatic relations, in advance of official talks to take place in Abu Dhabi. On Monday, the first preparatory meeting of the Israeli delegation slated to travel to the UAE took place.
Netanyahu on Sunday said that the U.S. administration had asked him to give up on annexation of parts of the West Bank in exchange for normalization with the United Arab Emirates, saying "It's not that they had given me a choice."
Netanyahu told Army Radio that annexation could not be carried out without the approval of the United States, and that Washington had asked him to temporarily suspend annexation. Annexation, he said, remained part of the White House's Mideast plan.
The prime minister also said that the agreement disproved "the idea that we need to uproot communities or else we won't get an official agreement with an Arab nation."