US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will be in Washington this week to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Advisor Jared Kushner, and other officials to discuss Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank. According to The Jerusalem Post, President Trump is poised to make a final decision on Tuesday on how Israel can go through with annexation, if at all.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hopes to annex Jewish settlements and parts of the Jordan Valley, an area that makes up about one-third of the West Bank. These areas reflect the portion of the West Bank allotted to Israel in President Trump’s so-called “peace plan” that was released in January. Despite the rejection of the plan by Palestinians, Netanyahu intends to go through with annexation and set July 1st as the target date to start the process.
US officials have said Netanyahu’s plan needs approval from Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is set to take over as prime minister next year under conditions of a power-sharing deal. While Gantz and his Blue and White party hope to see Israel annex the areas outlined in the plan, they are concerned unilateral annexation could inflame the region and risk peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt.
Netanyahu has said doing the annexation in stages to placate Gantz is a possibility. Haaretz reported on Sunday that the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government are discussing a plan for a “gradual” annexation of the West Bank, which would take place in several phases in the coming months. These are the type of details expected to be worked out this week in Washington.
A phased annexation could defuse some of the criticism the plan is facing from neighboring Arab countries and Democrats in Washington. But hard-liners in the Israeli government and Jewish settlers living in the West Bank have taken a position against this strategy.
Yossi Dagan, a settler leader, said on Monday that he gained support from Netanyahu’s Likud party to oppose the phased annexation and any plan that turns settlements into enclaves, meaning areas surrounded by Palestinian territory.