Feb 12, 2018

Israel backtracks on Netanyahu's claim of settlement talks with Trump admin.

Netanyahu and Trump at Davos last month. Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Israel is backtracking on Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement that he has been discussing the possibility of annexing the Jewish settlements in the West Bank with the Trump administration. After we reported on that claim, a U.S. official told me the U.S. hasn't received or agreed to any such proposals.

Between the lines: This is the first time since Trump went into the Oval Office that there is any daylight between his administration and the Netanyahu government on the Palestinian issue.

Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman, tells me: "Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false. The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the President’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative."

  • The backdrop: Netanyahu told lawmakers at a Likud faction meeting on Monday that the annexation discussions had been ongoing "for some time now," the first time he sounded support for annexation of the settlements as prime minister. Israel has refrained from annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, in part because of U.S. opposition.
  • An Israeli official now says that Netanyahu has been talking for some time with the Trump administration about Israel's national interest in a future peace deal with the Palestinians, but at no point but at no point did he present any specific annexation proposal, and the Trump administration has never agreed to such a proposal.
  • The Israeli official added that Israel updated the White House on different draft bills which were raised in the Knesset regarding annexation. The official said the U.S. has stated its clear position that it wants to promote the Trump administration's peace plan. Prime Minister Netanyahu's position is that if the Palestinians continue to refuse to engage in peace negotiations, Israel will present its own alternatives.

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