Pompeo: West Bank annexation is Israel’s decision to make
U.S. secretary of state welcomes new gov’t, leaves move to extend Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements in hands of the Jewish state; Abbas: accords with Israel, U.S. null if Israel goes through with annexation
U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that it is up to Israel’s decision whether to annex parts of the West Bank.
He also told reporters that the United States will offer its views on this to the new Israeli government in private.
“As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions,” Pompeo told a press conference. “That’s an Israeli decision. And we will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in (a) private setting.”
Pompeo also said he was happy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival and incoming Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed a deal to form a coalition government on Monday. Pompeo added he did not think a fourth consecutive election was in Israel’s interest.
The new coalition agreement includes annexing parts of the West Bank in coordination with the Trump administration.
Under the Trump peace plan, Israel is authorized to take over the Jordan Valley and extend Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, save for the small community in the restive city of Hebron, home to the Cave of the Patriarchs — one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
The move would mean a de-facto annexation of territory that Israel seized in the Six-Day War in 1967 and that is presently under Israeli military control. It would have to be greenlighted by the United States, after which Netanyahu would be permitted to advance plans from July 1, the agreement says.
The Palestinians and many countries consider settlements to be illegal under the Geneva Conventions that bar settling on land captured in war. Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical, and political connections to the land.
Last January, U.S. President Donald Trump presented a peace plan proposal, cited as “The Deal of the Century”, at the White House in the presence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White Chairman Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu’s surroundings claimed annexation was closer than ever. However, such a move is yet to be approved by the government since, and U.S. officials have made it clear that they will oppose its execution before a new Israeli government is formed.
After the presentation of the peace plan, Netanyahu said in a government briefing that the annexation of West Bank territories will be carried out in two steps, but a few hours later, the program’s architect – senior advisor to President Trump Jared Kushner – said he did not believe the move would take place anytime soon.
When asked whether the U.S. government supports the annexation plan, Kushner replied that the only agreement with Israel was on the establishment of a committee that will put together an orderly roadmap.
Pompeo also said Iran needs to be held accountable for the successful launch by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of the country’s first military satellite into orbit.
“I think Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done. They have now had a military organization that the United States has designated a terrorist attempt to launch a satellite,” Pompeo said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in remarks aired on Wednesday that his administration would regard agreements with Israel and the United States “completely canceled” if Israel annexes land in the West Bank.
“We have informed the relevant international parties, including the American and the Israeli governments, that we will not stand hand-cuffed if Israel announces the annexation of any part of our land,” Abbas said on Palestine TV.
Itamar Eichner, Reuters, Ynet News
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