Jun 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

White House meetings on Israeli annexations end with no decision

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House. Photo: Getty Images

Discussions at the White House on the Trump administration's plan on how to handle possible Israeli annexations in the West Bank ended with no final decision, a U.S. official told me.

Why it matters: The fact there is no firm decision yet signals that the White House has decided to take a more cautious approach toward the issue. U.S. officials told me that talks with the Israelis will continue, but it is going to take more time.

  • White House envoy Avi Berkowitz will travel to Israel Thursday together with U.S. ambassador David Friedman for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defense minister Benny Gantz and foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi regarding annexation.
  • A senior White House official called the meetings "productive," but reiterated that "there is yet no final decision on next steps for implementing the Trump plan."

The state of play: President Trump met with his senior team on Wednesday to discuss whether to give Israel a green light on annexation.

  • The meeting took place after several other meetings between Trump’s senior team, including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, senior adviser Jared Kushner, Berkowitz and Friedman.
  • Trump’s team was divided on the question of annexation. Friedman supports giving Israel approval to annex 30% of the West Bank right now, according to the Trump plan.
  • Kushner has a much more cautious line and has pushed only a symbolic move that will include steps for the Palestinians, too. 

The other side: Israeli leadership is also divided with Netanyahu wanting to go forward with annexation of maximum territory right away, while Gantz is stalling and trying to convince the White House to approve only a limited annexation move or to postpone it.

The big picture: Any unilateral Israeli annexation 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 annexation of at least some territory in the West Bank as soon as July 1. He's been hoping for a green light from the White House, which has said it will only agree if Israel's top leaders are unified behind the plan.
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