May 15, 2020 - World

Discussions on West Bank annexation should be part of Israeli-Palestinian talks: State Dept.

The Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, near the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
The Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, near the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. Photo: Ahmad Gharbali/Getty Images

The Trump administration thinks that discussions about Israel's possible annexation of the West Bank "should take place as part of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians on the Trump peace plan," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus told a group of Israeli reporters in a conference call on Friday.

Why it matters: The comments follow a series of public messages from the Trump administration in what looks like an attempt to signal to the new Israeli government that the U.S. does not support moving forward with annexation at the this time.

The state of play:

  • Last Friday, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker gave a briefing to reporters about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Israel and did not mention annexation, but emphasized the need for direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • One day before Pompeo landed in Israel, senior U.S. officials told me that the Trump administration does not view the new Israeli government's July 1 deadline to begin the process of annexing parts of the West Bank as a "do or die" date, and that the Trump administration is still preoccupied with the coronavirus crisis.
  • During Pompeo's visit, he was noncommittal in public remarks about a U.S. green light for annexation.
  • State Department officials who briefed the traveling press during Pompeo's trip back to the U.S. said he "didn't travel halfway across the world to discuss annexation."

What they're saying: Ortagus spoke about King Abdullah of Jordan and his warnings regarding annexation, and said the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty is very important to the U.S. She added that the King's comments show why it is critical for all parties to go back to the negotiating table to discuss the Trump plan.

"We are going to push in order to make this happen," Ortagus said.

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