TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will announce the annexation of three large Jewish towns in the West Bank in the very near future, but will not make any declarations for now regarding the Jordan Valley or other settlement blocs, top Israeli officials said.
Netanyahu vowed to begin annexation, with the U.S.’ blessing, on the July 1 date delineated in his coalition deal with Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
However, the U.S. has made it clear no unilateral moves to annex should happen before a mapping committee finishes contouring the territory, something that could take many weeks or even months, according to the Times of Israel.
Netanyahu is now likely to delay most of the annexation plans and will only work on extending sovereignty over the towns of Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel as well as the large Gush Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, the Hebrew-language Zman Yisrael reported.
According to the report, those three areas are within the broader consensus, both in Israel and the U.S., of being applicable for Israeli law.
The officials said the decision to focus on those less contentious areas was in consideration of Jordan’s relationship with the U.S., the report said.
King Abdullah of Jordan has warned of a “massive conflict” if Israel proceeds with plans to apply law to parts of the West Bank, raising concerns that the Hashemite Kingdom may even cancel its peace treaty with the Jewish state.
The move to annex the three blocs will only be the first step, the officials said, and more annexation will follow. They added under the current political climate, the move would be made unilaterally.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh on Tuesday warned if Israel goes ahead with the plans, the Palestinians would unilaterally declare a state based on the pre-1967 lines.
According to Shtayyeh, Israel’s plans to apply sovereignty to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley constituted an “existential threat” to the Palestinians and violates all Jerusalem’s agreements with Ramallah.
Shtayyeh falsely claimed Israel has already taken small measures on the ground in the Jordan Valley in preparation for annexation, including sending utility bills to Arab residents and removing the signs saying, “Beyond this point is Palestinian.”
However, according to The Jerusalem Post, which cited Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, no signs have been removed or replaced. Israel has also billed Palestinian residents in the area for water and electricity for decades, the newspaper noted.
The Trump administration’s peace plan sees Israel annexing 30 percent of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. It would also see a demilitarized Palestinian state established on most of the West Bank with parts of eastern Jerusalem that are outside the Israeli security fence as its capital.