TEL AVIV – The new Israeli government, set to be sworn in on Thursday evening, has “the right and the obligation” to decide if and how it wants to apply sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday as he wrapped up a six-hour visit to Jerusalem.
He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and newly appointed defense minister, rotational prime minister and unity government partner, Benny Gantz.
“We had a good conversation about how to go forward. They will need to find a way together to proceed,” he said in an interview with Israel Hayom.
“I reminded them that, at the end of the day, this is an Israeli decision,” he said. “They will have both the right and the obligation to make a decision on how they are going to do it.”
Pompeo said his meetings revolved around the coronavirus pandemic, Iran’s regional aggression, the U.S.’ concerns over China’s involvement in Israel, and President Donald Trump’s “vision for peace” for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“We spoke not only about the matter of annexation but also about many other topics that are related to it — how to deal with all the elements involved in the issue, and how it would be possible to ensure the move is done properly in order to bring about an outcome in accordance with the vision of peace,” he said.
Later, Pompeo seemed more unequivocal in an interview with the KAN public broadcaster.
“The Israeli government will make decisions about annexation — whether to do it, and how to do it and the timing of annexation,” he said.
After his remarks, senior State Department officials said the new Israeli government will need time to decide how and whether to move forward with the annexation plans and added that the U.S. would support a decision either way.
“The Israelis are working through this,” an official said. “We’re supportive of their efforts. They’ve got a coalition government that has various strands and I think it’s going to take them a while to come together with what they’re going to do.”
According to the unity deal struck between Netanyahu and Gantz, Israel can begin annexation as early as July 1.
The Trump administration’s peace proposal sees Israel annexing 30 percent of the West Bank which Friedman emphasized includes “areas essential to Israel’s Biblical DNA” – and the entire Jordan Valley.