Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Netanyahu signals delay in West Bank annexation plan

Published:Wednesday | July 1, 2020 | 12:20 AM
Palestinians labourers line up to cross a checkpoint at the entrance to the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, on Tuesday. AP
Palestinians labourers line up to cross a checkpoint at the entrance to the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, on Tuesday. AP

JERUSALEM (AP):

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that discussions with the US on his plan to annex occupied West Bank territory would continue “in the coming days,” indicating he would miss a July 1 target date for beginning the controversial process.

Netanyahu made the comments shortly after wrapping up talks with White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The sides have been holding talks for several months on finalising a map spelling out which areas of the West Bank will be annexed by Israel.

“I spoke about the question of sovereignty, which we are working on these days and we will continue to work on in the coming days,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu has been eager to begin annexing West Bank territory in line with President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan. The plan, unveiled in January, envisions turning over some 30 per cent of the territory under permanent Israeli control, while giving the Palestinians autonomy in the remaining land.

But the plan to redraw the Mideast map has come under fierce international criticism. The UN secretary-general, the European Union and key Arab countries have all said Israeli annexation would violate international law and undermine the goal of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. The Palestinians, who seek all of the West Bank as part of a future state, have rejected the Trump plan.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war. The international community considers the territory to be occupied, and for Israel’s more than 120 settlements to be illegal.

But Trump has taken a far more conciliatory line than his Republican and Democratic predecessors. Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, has said Israel must take advantage of what he calls a “historic opportunity,” and is eager to move forward before the November US presidential election.