The United States has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to keep alive the prospect of a Palestinian state as he considers West Bank annexation, a senior official said on Thursday.
Netanyahu’s government had set July 1 as the date when it could begin formally taking over Palestinian areas seized in 1967 in line with a plan outlined in January by US President Donald Trump.
US urges Israel to keep Palestine intact
Trump’s plan also lays out the grounds for an independent Palestinian state, although it would be demilitarised and its capital would not be inside the contested holy city of Jerusalem. David Schenker, the top US diplomat for Middle East, said that Netanyahu was facing domestic pressure as some of his supporters “want annexation but aren’t particularly enamored of the vision for peace that calls for a Palestinian state as well”.
“So we’re calling on the Israelis not to do anything that would preclude the implementation of the vision,” Schenker said at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
He said he was unsure if Netanyahu would ultimately go ahead with annexation as he assesses the impact it would have.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t see anything, but I think that the prime minister would like to do something,” Schenker said.
The Trump administration, whose evangelical base is strongly pro-Israel, has said that Netanyahu has Washington’s green light to annex Palestinian land.
But Schenker said Israel was aware of the threat of repercussions from European powers as well as strong objections from friendly Arab states.
Trump Middle East Plan and Israel annexation rejected by Palestine
The Palestinian Authority has rejected the Trump plan, accusing the administration of bias and of trying to buy off the Palestinians through promises of future investment.
Thousands of Palestinians protested Wednesday in early July against Israel’s West Bank annexation plans, as premier Benjamin Netanyahu held off an announcement on the controversial project and international opposition stiffened.
Netanyahu’s centre-right coalition government had set July 1 as the date from which it could begin implementing US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace proposal.
Palestine’s prime minister earlier branded Israel’s annexation plan an “existential threat” to the Palestinian people and urged European countries to take the lead in multilateral peace negotiations.
In an online briefing premier Mohammad Shtayyeh said: “Annexation of the West Bank is part of the systematic destruction of a future Palestinian state, but not only that. It is an existential threat to Palestinians as a people.”
More than 1500 people demonstrated towards the Dane Parliament in Copenhagen on Sunday, demanding sanctions on "Israel" and serious steps to stop the annexation plans.#StopAnnexation #Act4Palestine pic.twitter.com/vi47TiQG5f
— Dania 🕊🇵🇸 (@Daniasalem0) July 6, 2020
US turns its back on controversial Israel annexation plan
The former Speaker of Knesset (Israel’s parliament), Abraham Borg, said US President Donald Trump has halted the Israeli annexation plan for parts of the occupied West Bank.
In an interview with Italian daily “Il Fatto Quotidiano”, Borg said Trump stopped the implementation of the annexation plan as “he doesn’t have time to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in implementing the annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley”.
He described both Netanyahu and Trump as suffering from a “narcissistic paranoia, with no scrupulous and ethics who are ready to roll over anyone to save themselves and remain in power”.
When asked about another expected date for implementing the annexation plan, Borg said it is “very difficult, if not impossible, to set expectations to the annexation, because there is no transparency in this plan, no one knows its details.”
This is a sharp U-turn from Trump’s initial support for the annexation plan, and was even a part of his Middle East peace deal.
News Desk with additional input from other sources