TEL AVIV – The U.S. on Monday said it was ready to recognize Israel’s annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but asked Israel’s newly formed unity government to also negotiate with the Palestinians.
“As we have made consistently clear, we are prepared to recognize Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the West Bank that the vision foresees as being part of the State of Israel,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said.
The measure would be “in the context of the Government of Israel agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinians along the lines set forth in President [Donald] Trump’s Vision,” she added, referring to the Trump administration’s peace plan.
“The annexation would be in the context of an offer to the Palestinians to achieve statehood based upon specific terms, conditions, territorial dimensions and generous economic support. This is an unprecedented and highly beneficial opportunity for the Palestinians,” the State Department spokesperson said.
Trump’s plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians sight unseen, would see the establishment of a contiguous but demilitarized Palestinian state on most of the West Bank with parts of eastern Jerusalem that are outside the Israeli security fence as its capital.
Jerusalem would remain undivided and under Israeli control.
Israel would be allowed to annex all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jordan Valley.
On Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cancel all agreements with Israel and the U.S. if Israel went through with annexation.
His comments came in response to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that annexation was “ultimately Israel’s decision to make.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he was confident the U.S. would give Israel the approval in the next two months to move ahead with the plans.
“Three months ago, the Trump peace plan recognized Israel’s rights in all of [the West Bank],” Netanyahu said. “And President Trump pledged to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there and in the Jordan Valley.”
“A couple of months from now, I’m confident that that pledge will be honored,” Netanyahu said.
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 proposed measure has drawn criticism from the international community.
E.U. and U.N. officials warned against the move, with E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell saying it “would constitute a serious violation of international law” and the U.N. Middle East peace envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, saying it would result in a “devastating blow” to the two-state solution and regional peace.