German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.
Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.
The White House held talks with Israel's new government today, a month from its July 1 deadline to begin the process of annexing parts of the West Bank, to take the pulse on the Israeli side, U.S. and Israeli officials tell me.
Why it matters: The Trump administration has not yet decided whether it will give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the green light he is seeking to move forward on annexation.
Several European leaders have sent personal letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent days warning him against annexing parts of the West Bank, Israeli and European officials tell me.
Why it matters: Netanyahu is hoping for a green light from the U.S. to move ahead on annexations as early as July 1, but the letters from the leaders of Italy, France, Spain and the U.K. are signals of the strong international pushback Israel would face.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a Likud Party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, that his July 1 deadline for starting the process of annexation in the West Bank will not change, according to people in attendance.
Why it matters: The White House and the State Department have stressed over the last few weeks that the deadline set by Netanyahu is "not sacred" to the Trump administration — and that any discussion of annexation needs to be in the context of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Officials from the U.S., Russia, EU and UN will hold a video-conference today to discuss the possibility of an international meeting to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Western diplomats tell me.
Why it matters: The meeting comes amid escalating tensions, with Israel threatening to move forward with annexations in the West Bank and Palestinian leaders announcing the suspension of all agreements with Israel and the U.S., including on security coordination.
Russia has offered to facilitate a meeting in the next few weeks between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority, Western diplomats briefed on the Russian initiative tell me.
Why it matters: Dialogue was severed between the U.S. and the Palestinians two and a half years ago, and the Palestinians aren't taking part in negotiations on President Trump's peace plan. New talks could also offer a way to prevent escalation on the ground as Israel considers annexing parts of the West Bank.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press briefing Wednesday that he hopes security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians will continue, despite Palestinian President Abbas’ announcement on Tuesday that he would void all agreements with both Israel and the U.S. because of Israel's annexation plans.
Why it matters: Security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians is one of the main pillars of the Oslo Accords and the relationship between the parties. The U.S. has been deeply involved in security coordination and has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in equipment and training to the Palestinian security forces over the last 25 years.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority considers itself free of all agreements and understandings with both Israel and the U.S. — including on security matters — because of Israel's annexation plans.
Why it matters: Abbas appears now to be following through on a drastic threat he had made previously, though it remains to be seen if and how his statement will be implemented.
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.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a speech at the swearing-in ceremony of the new Israeli government Sunday that now is the time to annex the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Unlike in previous speeches, Netanyahu didn’t mention his intention to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up 20% of the West Bank.
Why it matters: In the last several days since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Jerusalem, Trump administration officials have signaled several times that they don’t want Israel to move forward on annexation at this moment. The State Department has said annexation should be part of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians on the White House peace plan.