Feb 12, 2018

Netanyahu talked with U.S. about annexing West Bank settlements

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told lawmakers at a Likud faction meeting at the Knesset on Monday that he has been discussing with the Trump administration "for some time now" the possibility of annexing the Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

Why it matters: This statement by Netanyahu is nothing short of dramatic. This is the first time Netanyahu has sounded support for annexation of the settlements in more than 10 years as prime minister. Israel annexed occupied East Jerusalem in 1980 and then annexed the occupied Golan Heights in 1981. Israel has refrained from annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, fearing international reaction, mainly from the U.S.

U.S. official tells me: The U.S. hasn’t received or agreed to any proposals from Israel about annexation of the settlements in the West Bank

What we're hearing: According to a Netanyahu aide who attended the meeting, Netanyahu said he wants maximum coordination with the Trump administration on such a move because "the good contacts with the White House are a strategic asset to Israel and to the settlements". 

Netanyahu added that because such a step would be historic he wants to promote such a move as a government initiative and not as part of a private initiative by members of Knesset who promote a bill on this issue.  

Why now?: Netanyahu is under political pressure by members of his own party and by other parties in his coalition to start annexing parts of the West Bank – mainly the Jewish settlements. Netanyahu's Likud party central committee has passed a resolution calling the government to annex the settlements. Netanyahu is delaying a bill that annexes the settlements and this statement today is a means to save face politically.

Netanyahu is dealing with two police investigations against him on alleged corruption and bribe. The police is about to publish next week its recommendations to the attorney general regarding Netanyahu's cases. A statement by Netanyahu at this timing supporting annexation of the settlements is a means to rally his right wing base as he braces for the fallout from the police recommendations.

Go deeper: Netanyahu urged delay on settlement annexation bill until after Trump peace plan

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include comment from a U.S. official.

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