WASHINGTON – Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Wednesday contradicted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that the government will meet Sunday to discuss the proposal to apply Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.
Following the publication of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he will bring the offer before the government at the start of next week.
Speaking to Israeli radio stations, Levin – who is currently in the United States with the premier – said the reason for the delay was technical, and explained that bringing the proposal to a vote “requires time to prepare and work on the different documents.”
Levin also said Netanyahu needs to receive the official opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit, who said Tuesday that he does not reject the idea of annexation outright.
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Likud lawmaker Miki Zohar told Haaretz later Wednesday that the Trump peace plan will be brought before Israel's Knesset ahead of the elections scheduled for March.
Zohar justified the move in relation to Netanyahu's failure to win an immunity from persecution in the three criminal cases he has been charged in. "The move [by the opposition to thwart the immunity] allows us to break the rules as well," Zohar said. "The same argument that was used against Netanyahu, we are using now. This is something we have wanted to do for a very long time, but there has always been something in our way, coming to tell us it is not possible. Now we are in a position to do it."
Netanyahu said immediately after the publication of the plan that the White House will initially recognize Israeli sovereignty over these areas, and that “the law of Itamar is as the law of Tel Aviv,” referring to the West Bank settlement.
He added that, later on, and in coordination with Washington, Israeli law will be applied over other territories surrounding the settlements. Netanyahu’s media adviser, Jonathan Urich, tweeted Tuesday: “Sovereignty over any settlement on Sunday,” but deleted the tweet a short while thereafter.
in response to Netanyahu’s comments, U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, told CNN that he is not familiar with any Israeli plan to immediately annex West Bank settlements. The U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, had said earlier that Israel is free to annex whenever it wants.
Mendelblit said Tuesday that he isn’t ruling out annexation by an interim government before Israel elects its new representatives on March 2, but added that he has yet to look into the matter.
“Even an interim government has things it can do, urgent things,” he said. “And it’s happened before that political deals [were made] a month or so before an election. We’ll wait to see what the request is. They will have to explain what the urgency is and why it must be done before the election, and we’ll see what we can do.”
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