May 17, 2020 - World

Netanyahu calls for Israel to annex West Bank settlements at swearing-in ceremony

Benjamin Netanyahu

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the new Israeli government Sunday that now is the time to annex the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Unlike in previous speeches, Netanyahu didn’t mention his intention to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up 20% of the West Bank.

Why it matters: In the last several days since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem, Trump administration officials have signaled several times that they don’t want Israel to move forward on annexation at this moment. The State Department has said annexation should be part of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians on the White House peace plan.

The big picture: The coalition deal that allowed Netanyahu to form the new government says he can bring "the understandings with the Trump administration" on annexation up for a vote in the Cabinet or parliament as early as July 1 — but only with the full agreement of the White House.

  • The swearing-in of the Israeli government ends more than a year of political crisis in which Israel held three consecutive elections with no clear result.
  • The new power-sharing government includes a rotation in the position of prime minister. In 18 months, Netanyahu is expected to be replaced by Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party, who will serve until then as the "alternate prime minister" and the minister of defense.

What they're saying: "We warmly welcome the announcement of the formation of a new Government of Israel," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted Sunday. "We are extremely fortunate to have such strong and experienced partners in Jerusalem, and we will work together to advance the security and prosperity of our peoples."

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