TEL AVIV – Annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is “ultimately Israel’s decision to make,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a briefing on Wednesday.
“As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis ultimately make those decisions, so that’s an Israeli decision,” Pompeo said.
“We will work closely with them to share our views of this in a private setting,” Pompeo added.
He also said he was glad that Israel was on the way to a “fully-formed” government and avoided fourth elections.
“A fourth [election] we think wouldn’t have been in their best interest, but we’ll leave that to them. We think it’s not in the world’s best interest. We’re glad there’s now a fully formed government,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement to form a unity government Monday night, ending a year and a half political deadlock.
According to the terms of the deal, the issue of annexation can be voted in the Knesset on July 1 at the earliest, “after discussion between the prime minister and alternate prime minister” and with U.S. consent.
Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for a year and a half after which Gantz will replace him.
“In relation to President Trump’s declaration,” the coalition agreement states, “the prime minister and alternate prime minister will act with the US’s full agreement including mapping and international dialogue on the subject, while aiming to protect Israel’s security and strategic interests, including the need to preserve regional stability, peace agreements and working towards future peace agreements.”
The issue of West Bank annexation along with the appointments of the Judicial Selection Committee were two of the main sticking points contributing to an impasse in unity government negotiations.
Gantz and Netanyahu will “promote peace agreements with all of our neighbors and promote regional cooperation in a variety of economic areas and in the coronavirus crisis,” the agreement said.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and other Trump administration officials have already begun discussions on implementing the peace plan with Netanyahu and Gantz, The Jerusalem Post reported.
President Donald Trump’s peace plan allows Israel to annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank, amounting to 30% of region.
In February, Friedman made it clear that unilateral annexation may endanger the peace plan and said that first a mapping committee needed to go through the process.
The purpose of the commission, he said, was to turn the peace plan’s “conceptual map” into a detailed map that ensures “you can have contiguous territory” for a Palestinian state.