May 18, 2020 - World

Israeli ambassador lobbies for West Bank annexation, fearing Biden victory

Ron Dermer. Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer has been lobbying Trump administration officials, members of Congress, conservative pundits and other D.C. influencers in recent weeks to convince them that Israel must move forward on annexations of parts of the West Bank before November's election, fearing that Joe Biden will defeat President Trump, according to three U.S. and Israeli sources.

Why it matters: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Dermer, his closest confidante, are concerned that a Biden victory would dramatically shift U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine and that Israel must create facts on the ground before the U.S. elections.

What they're saying: Dermer’s message in meetings and off-the-record briefings he's providing to think tank experts, pundits and reporters is that "Israel has to move on annexation now because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the elections and Biden might win," according to three sources. "We have a window of opportunity now and we need to use it."

Between the lines: Israeli and American sources told me Dermer is intensifying his lobbying efforts and wants to move as fast as possible because he is aware of the reservations some officials in the Trump administration are now having over giving Israel the green light for annexation.

These second thoughts were the result of several developments:

  • Deep concerns about Israeli annexation relayed to the White House and the State Department by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Reservations and concerns regarding annexation raised by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in their talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jerusalem last week.
  • Concerns by some Trump administration officials that Israeli annexation now would harm the White House's Middle East peace plan.
  • The coronavirus crisis, which still consumes most of President Trump’s time.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on this story.

Go deeper: Jordanian king warns of "massive conflict" if Israel annexes parts of West Bank

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