Annexation: Trump to decide US position after key meetings this week

As Israel’s July 1 annexation deadline approaches, Trump and top White House aides are reportedly meeting this week to decide whether to endorse Netanyahu’s plan.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

President Donald Trump will meet with top advisors this week to stake out Washington’s position on Israel’s current plan to extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, Channel 13 reported on Saturday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set July 1 as the deadline to move forward with the sovereignty plan, but is facing resistance within the government from members of the Blue and White party, such as Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, in addition to potential challenges from allies in the the U.S., such as Trump.

According to the Channel 13 report, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will return to America for the meetings, which will also count among its attendees senior Trump advisor Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser Richard O’Brien, and probably Trump himself.

The report added that Kushner’s replacement as point person for the Israel-Palestinian peace process, Avi Berkowitz, cancelled a planned visit to Israel this week to accommodate the meetings in the U.S.

The wildcard with regard to whether the U.S. will support Israel’s sovereignty plan remains the extent to which it hues to the Trump Mideast peace plan, an effort that was spearheaded by Kushner and former envoy Jason Greenblatt and was years in the making. To develop the Trump plan, Kushner and Greenblatt sought out significant input from key stakeholders in the Arab world.

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Central features of the plan include the creation of an independent Palestinian state, around $50 billion in economic incentives for the Palestinians, and disarming of Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas.

According to the Channel 13 report, Kushner in principle supports Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, but wants Israel to avoid pursuing any strategies that jeopardize the Trump road map’s success.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected the Trump proposal sight unseen and has maintained a near-complete boycott of the Trump administration since December 2017, when the U.S. recognized that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and Trump announced his intention to move the U.S. embassy there.

Channel 13 added that Friedman continues to support Netanyahu’s annexation plan, and Pompeo is also becoming increasingly receptive to it.

Key Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, House majority leader Steny Hoyer, and Senator Chuck Schumer have officially condemned Israeli sovereignty under the Netanyahu plan, claiming it will harm the peace process with the Palestinians, which hasn’t made significant progress in decades

In contrast, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer wrote in the Washington Post on Friday, “The extension of Israeli sovereignty to certain territories in Judea and Samaria will not, as many critics suggest, destroy the two-state solution. But it will shatter the two-state illusion. And in doing so, it will open the door to a realistic two-state solution and get the peace process out of the cul-de-sac it has been stuck in for two decades.”

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Under the annexation plan, Israel will declare sovereignty over towns in which Jewish Israelis currently live. The Palestinians will continue to control two-thirds of Judea and Samaria and maintain the possibility of establishing an independent state.

Israel gained control of Judea and Samaria from Jordan in 1967’s Six-Day War, a conflict initiated by four Arab nations that attacked the Jewish state. Prior to the war, no independent Palestinian state existed in Judea and Samaria.