TEL AVIV – President Donald Trump is set to make a final decision on Tuesday as to Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, The Jerusalem Post reported.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman traveled to Washington to meet with Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien in a series of meetings Monday and Tuesday.
Trump is also expected to take part in some of the discussions, the report said, echoing an earlier report in the Axios website by veteran Israeli journalist Barak Ravid who said the U.S. president “will make the final call on any decision.”
While Pompeo returned from his trip to Israel last month with many reservations about annexation, Ravid said, sources say he has since shifted his position to reflect that of Friedman, who has expressed his support for the plan.
One of the main points of discussion will be the lack of consensus on the matter between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
While Gantz has described the Trump administration’s peace proposal – which sees Israel annexing 30 percent of the West Bank – as a “historic opportunity,” he harbors concerns about its provisions, and explicitly the amount of territory that Netanyahu hopes to apply Israeli law to. According to Israeli media, Gantz and Netanyahu have discussed a phased annexation beginning with anything from applying sovereignty to 12 percent of the area in the initial phase.
Gantz has raised concern that annexation may jeopardize Israel’s peace treaties with its neighbors, Jordan and Egypt.
Indeed, Jordan’s King Abdullah has warned of a “massive conflict” if Israel proceeds with the plan.
Some critics have said annexation could damage Israel’s bid to normalize relations with Gulf states – in particular, the UAE.
“It is no secret that the Emirates and other states in the region are concerned about annexation. Israel has a number of decisions before it,” U.S. Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs David Schenker said in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster. “However Israel proceeds, it will do so while taking steps that will preserve the administration’s vision for peace. Israel has been in the past savvy with how it handles its relations with its Arab partners, so I am sure they will take all these factors into consideration.”
Netanyahu has said he would begin the process of applying sovereignty to the 132 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jordan Valley on July 1.
Likud minister David Amsalem on Monday said Israel needs to “take advantage” of a “historic, unprecedented opportunity” to apply sovereignty.
“Israel is at one of its most important junctions since the state was founded,” Amsalem said.
Responding to heckles from the Knesset members from the mostly Arab Joint List party, who claimed annexation constituted apartheid, Amsalem asked if any of them had ever seen a Jew wandering around Ramallah or Jenin.
Palestinian West Bank cities are off-limits to Israeli Jews and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has made it clear in the past none would be accepted in any future Palestinian state.