One of the only concessions Israel was required to make under President Trump’s so-called “peace plan” was a promise to halt the expansion of settlements for four years. But in the eyes of Israel’s government, that agreement is far too generous. At a meeting with settler leaders on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he plans on going through with annexation without freezing settlement expansion.
The peace plan was rejected by Palestinians upon its release since it included plans for Israel to annex settlements and parts of the Jordan Valley, an area making up about one-third of the West Bank. But Israel plans on going through with annexation regardless of what the Palestinians think. According to Haaretz, Netanyahu told the settlement leaders that Israel is waiting on a green light from the US to annex parts of the West Bank, and could possibly annex less than originally planned.
Although the plan calls for the rest of the West Bank to become a Palestinian state, Netanyahu reportedly said that he “does not call [the entity] a state.” If the annexation goes through, the settlements will be surrounded by Palestinian territory, which is not good enough in the eyes of the settlers.
One of the settler leaders that met with Netanyahu on Sunday spoke with The Associated Press. “This doesn’t answer all our dreams but you have to keep it in perspective and see what the alternative is,” Odessa Revivi told the Press. “We have an opportunity with this president, this prime minister and this international climate and we have to seize it.”
The US wants Defense Minister Benny Gantz to agree to the annexation plans before they give Netanyahu the green light. Gantz is scheduled to become prime minister next year under the conditions of a power-sharing deal agreed to with Netanyahu after three back-to-back elections failed to give either politician a clear victory. US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with Gantz, Netanyahu, and other Israeli politicians on Sunday night to discuss annexation.
Netanyahu has a target date in July to start annexation, and, according to The Jerusalem Post, the US agrees with the timeline if Gantz is on board. Gantz is expected to meet with settlement leaders on Tuesday to discuss the annexation.
Mixed signals have been coming out of the US, with recent reports suggesting Washington was asking Israel to slow down its plans. But the State Department’s envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism said the decision to annex parts of the West Bank is Israel’s to make. “Nothing is preventing Israel from extending sovereignty,” Elan Carr said on Monday when asked if the civil unrest in the US could delay annexation plans.