Jun 7, 2020 - World

Israel looks to move forward with West Bank annexation "within weeks"

Netanyahu with officials

Yariv Levin (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman. Photo: Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Yariv Levin said in a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and settler leaders on Sunday that Israel will move forward with annexation of parts of the West Bank "within weeks," sources who attended the meeting told me.

Why it matters: Levin is heading the team formed by Netanyahu to negotiate with the Trump administration over the West Bank annexation maps. In the last few months, he has held numerous meetings and phone calls about the issue with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his team.

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

What they're saying:

  • Netanyahu was more reserved about the timetable for annexation. According to one of the people who attended the meeting, Netanyahu told settler leaders he still doesn’t have a “green light” from the White House to move forward with his annexation plan and that the details and the maps haven’t been agreed to yet with the Trump administration. Netanyahu said he is working within a tight schedule to annex "the maximum territory possible" in the West Bank.
  • The prime minister stressed in his meeting with the settler leaders that Israel needs to seize the opportunity now with Trump in the White House. "We must not make Trump think we are not interested in annexation," Netanyahu said, according to people who attended the meeting.
  • Netanyahu also told settler leaders that the Trump administration refers to a "Palestinian state" in its peace plan, but that Israel doesn't define it as such. He stressed that any Cabinet decision on annexation will not refer in any way to Israeli agreement for a Palestinian state.

What to watch: After meeting with the settlers, Netanyahu met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi to discuss the annexation plan. Both Gantz and Ashkenazi have expressed deep concerns and reservations.

  • Before bringing any annexation plan to the White House for approval, Netanyahu will have to get an agreement on the details with Gantz and Ashkenazi.
  • Without such a consensus, he will have a difficult time getting a green light from the Trump administration.
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