Netanyahu: Annexation of West Bank Settlements Being Discussed With U.S.

Washington was not pleased with Netanyahu's statement ■ Israeli officials clarify: Netanyahu never presented U.S. with specific annexation proposal

Israeli soldiers looking over the Palestinian city of Nablus, February 7, 2018
Israeli soldiers looking over the Palestinian city of Nablus, February 7, 2018 Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that for some time now, he has been "maintaining a dialogue with the Americans" about "the issue of expanding Israeli sovereignty" to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

"Two principles have been guiding me: communicating to the Americans that our connection with them is a strategic asset not only for Israel, but also for the settlements. [Secondly], that this needs to be a government initiative and not a private one, as this is a historic move," the prime minister said.

Netanyahu blocked the advance of a bill to apply Israeli sovereignty to the settlements on Sunday. The bill did not mention annexation of the West Bank, instead only referring to the settlements. The forum of coalition party leaders, which convened to decide whether to support the bill, unanimously agreed to postpone the debate because of the recent flare-up in the north.

Washington did not take kindly to Netanyahu's statement. A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that Netanyahu "did not present the U.S. with any specific annexation proposal; the U.S. would have objected to such proposals anyway. Israel did update the U.S. with different legislative initiatives and the Trump administration reiterated its clear position of wanting to push forward with the U.S. president's peace plan."

According to the official, "Netanyahu's position is that if the Palestinians continue with their refusal to negotiate peace, Israel will put forward its own alternatives."

According to Netanyahu, Israel has to avoid steps liable to embarrass the United States so as to reach understandings with the international community. In an interview with the pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom newspaper published on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his doubts that Israel and the Palestinians are committed to reaching peace.

"Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace, they are not looking to make peace. And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace," Trump said. He added that the settlements "always have complicated making peace," and warned that "Israel has to be very careful with the settlements."

Netanyahu has used these arguments several times over the past few months in order to postpone various bills relating to annexing territories, among them the bill to annex Ma’aleh Adumim and a bill that would bring the settlements surrounding Jerusalem under the city’s jurisdiction.

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