Jun 20, 2020 - World

Scoop: White House to discuss this week whether to approve Israeli annexations

Netanyahu (L) with Trump, Pence, Pompeo and Kushner at the White House in January. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The White House is expected to hold high-level meetings this week to discuss whether to give the Israeli government a “green light” on annexing parts of the West Bank, American and Israeli sources tell me.

Why it matters: Israel won't move forward on annexation without the approval of the White House, and there are disagreements on the issue inside both the Israeli government and the Trump administration. Security and intelligence officials from both countries fear annexation would lead to violent escalation in the region.

The meetings are expected to take place Monday or Tuesday and include Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who is expected to travel to Washington to attend.

  • White House envoy Avi Berkowitz had been expected to travel to Israel but stayed in Washington to attend the meetings.
  • President Trump is expected to join the discussion at a certain stage, and will make the final call on any decision.

Behind the scenes: Friedman supports giving the Israeli government a “green light” for annexation now but others in the administration are more cautious. 

  • Pompeo returned from his trip to Israel last month with many reservations about annexation, due to concerns about regional stability and internal disagreements inside to Israeli government. Pompeo has appeared to shift since then and move closer to Friedman’s position, sources say.
  • Kushner's position is unclear. He is not ideologically opposed to annexation but is deeply invested in the Trump peace plan and wants to make sure Israel's steps don't undermine it.
  • One of the main points of discussion will be the disagreements on the issue between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partners, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
  • U.S. officials have said they want to see broad consensus among Israel's leaders on any annexation steps.

The big picture: Any unilateral Israeli annexations would be widely considered a violation of international law and fiercely opposed by the Palestinians, countries in the region including Jordan, as well as the European Union.

  • Netanyahu has vowed to move forward with the annexation of at least some territory in the West Bank as soon as July 1 .
  • America's Arab allies, mainly Jordan and the UAE, have been warning the
    Trump administration and Israel both privately and publicly against
  • The foreign ministers of many EU member states raised their concerns in a video conference call with Pompeo last week. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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