Netanyahu Says Annexation Still on the Table, but White House Needs to Back It

West Bank annexation proposal is 'in Washington,' prime minister tells lawmakers, after senior Palestinian officials say that if Israel doesn't carry out its plan by next month, its window of opportunity will narrow

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu putting on a face mask at his office in Jerusalem, June 30, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu putting on a face mask at his office in Jerusalem, June 30, 2020.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told told members of his Likud party Monday that plans for annexation of parts of the West Bank is "in Washington, it's not off the table," and that the "possibility still exists," adding that the White House "needs to back it."

Prominent settler leader David Elhayani, who heads the Yesha Council of settlements, called on the prime minister to promote annexation plans “immediately” in response. Elhayani said that Netanyahu, “who once and again promised to extend Israeli sovereignty over Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, isn’t in Washington, but in Jerusalem. The decision is yours, and only yours to make.”

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Netanyahu's statement comes after Haaretz reported Sunday that senior Palestinian Authority officials have recently said in closed meetings that if Israel does not carry out its plan to annex territory in the West Bank by the end of September, the window of opportunity for annexation will have been narrowed.

They said that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ends his public support for the move, talks could begin on resuming full security and economic cooperation with Israel.

A recent assessment conducted in the PA and presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suggests a number of scenarios, all based on the determination that if Netanyahu and the Trump administration still intend to carry out any annexation plan, it will presumably happen between mid-August and mid-September. The assumption is that the likelihood of annexation will decline with the approach of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the U.S. election, scheduled for September 15-20 and November 3, respectively.

Israeli officials, however, say a token or partial declaration of annexation close to November 3 cannot be ruled out. They add that it will depend on the political circumstances of Netanyahu and of President Donald Trump, both of whom may make unexpected decisions under pressure.

Officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah say Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley is least likely to be met, in light of Jordan’s opposition. In talks between Palestinian decision-makers and Western and other Arab figures, the idea was raised that Netanyahu might carry out a limited unilateral move in the settlement blocs. Such a move, however, would require the approval of the White House which has conditioned its okay on Kahol Lavan agreeing to the move. Kahol Lavan has said it would sign off on it only if thorough groundwork of the type that hasn’t been done is completed.

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