The big picture

Why Israel’s annexation plans matter for the region

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Jul 1, 2020 - World

Jimmy Carter condemns Israel's planned annexation of parts of West Bank

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at the White House in 1979. Photo: Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Former President Jimmy Carter issued a statement on Wednesday calling Israel's planned annexation of up to 30% of the West Bank a "massive, illegal expropriation of Palestinian territory" that would jeopardize peace treaties and mark the end of any possible two-state solution.

Why it matters: Carter famously brought the leaders of Egypt and Israel together for secret negotiations that resulted in the 1978 Camp David Accords. His statement echoes sentiments expressed by the United Nations, the European Union and Arab nations who believe that annexation will deal a devastating blow to peace efforts.

Gantz tells Trump aides that fighting coronavirus is more important than annexation

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz told President Trump's advisers on Monday that he thinks the Israeli government should prioritize the fight against the coronavirus pandemic over moving forward with annexation of parts of the West Bank, Gantz aides said.

Why it matters: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to move forward with annexation of at least some territory as soon as July 1. He's been hoping for a green light from the White House, which has signaled it wants Israel's top leaders to be unified behind such a move. Gantz’s reservations make the situation more difficult.

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.

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.

Netanyahu privately presents 4 plans for West Bank annexation

Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley, Sept, 10, 2019. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented four annexation scenarios in a meeting tonight with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi — from annexing 30% of the West Bank to a more symbolic annexation of a small amount of land, an Israeli official briefed on the meeting tells me.

Why it matters: 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.

Billionaire Haim Saban advised UAE ambassador on Israeli annexation op-ed

Haim Saban speaks onstage at Friends of The Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) Western Region Gala at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on November 1, 2018. Photo: Shahar Azran/Getty Images

Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban advised UAE ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba regarding his op-ed against Israeli annexation in the West Bank and assisted in publishing it in the Israeli press, Israeli sources told me.

Why it matters: Saban was one of Hillary Clinton’s main political backers and donors. He also has communication channels with President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner. Saban and Al-Otaiba have known each other for many years and became friends.

UAE sends direct message to Israeli public against West Bank annexation

Yousef Al-Otaiba, the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Washington, stressed in an op-ed published in an Israeli newspaper that Israeli annexation in the West Bank will destroy all efforts to achieve normalization between Israel and the Arab world — mainly the Gulf states.

Why it matters: The op-ed was an unprecedented message from a senior official in the UAE to Israeli public opinion through the Israeli press. Yediot Ahronot is a mainstream newspaper with the largest circulation in the country which speaks to a center-right audience.

Trump administration coordinated ICC sanctions with Israel

Netanyahu and Pompeo. Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

The Trump administration and Israel coordinated the U.S. authorization of sanctions against the International Criminal Court announced Thursday during Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s short visit to Jerusalem last month, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The prosecutor of the ICC had decided to open an investigation against Israel for alleged war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza pending a review by the court's judges. The judges will make a decision soon, and Israel is seeking to use U.S. sanctions to pressure them into shutting down the investigation.

Israel looks to move forward with West Bank annexation "within weeks"

Yariv Levin (L) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman. Photo: Abir Sultan/AFP via Getty Images

Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Yariv Levin said in a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and settler leaders on Sunday that Israel will move forward with annexation of parts of the West Bank "within weeks," sources who attended the meeting told me.

Why it matters: Levin is heading the team formed by Netanyahu to negotiate with the Trump administration over the West Bank annexation maps. In the last few months, he has held numerous meetings and phone calls about the issue with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his team.

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