Immediate annexation? Maybe not – depends whom you ask

There is some disagreement between Israel and the U.S. over what “immediate” means.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

There seems to be an apparent contradiction between the Israeli and U.S. meaning of “immediate” in regards to when exactly Israel can apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria.

Israel is broadcasting the message that it can do so right away. But the U.S. is telling it to wait, that “immediately” only follows the formation of a joint-committee that will work through all the details.

The Israeli right was delighted when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on Tuesday, the day the Trump peace plan was unveiled, to bring the issue of annexation to a vote at the Sunday cabinet meeting. However, that was quickly delayed a few days for what the Likud-led government called “technical” reasons.

Those technicalities don’t appear to have anything to do with the committee the U.S. wants. A source in Netanyahu’s Washington entourage told reporters, “The Prime Minister’s Office is working energetically. We’re talking about complicated staff work, that includes among other things maps and aerial photos, and they hope to complete them soon.”

The cabinet’s annexation discussion has been rescheduled to Tuesday.

The U.S. says it wants a U.S.-Israel joint committee formed to make sure everyone’s on the same page. President Donald Trump referred to this committee in his speech.

“We will form a joint committee with Israel to convert the conceptual map into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved,” he said.

The difference of opinion was exemplified by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who initially said on Tuesday that Israel could annex the areas immediately but then backtracked the next day, aligning his position with that of the administration.

He said a U.S.-Israeli panel must first work through all the issues.

To reporters on Wednesday, he said “That committee will work with all due deliberation to get to the right spot. But it is a process that does require some effort, some understanding, some calibration. We need to see the dimensions and see that it is not inconsistent with the maps.”

“We will designate shortly the members of the committee from our side. We hope the Israeli government will do the same. We will be presented with the plan and the proposal and we’ll consider it as part of the agreement. And they’ll make a decision,” Friedman said.

Friedman denied at the press briefing that there was any contradiction between Netanyahu and Trump’s position regarding the immediate application of sovereignty.

However, Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner said on Wednesday, “The hope is that they’ll wait till after the [Israeli] election, and we’ll work with them to try to come up with something.”

Jason Greenblatt, another senior adviser who worked with Kushner on the Trump plan, also said any sovereignty moves would have to wait until that election.

The Israeli election is scheduled for March 2.

Israel’s right-wing pressed Netanyahu to stick to his guns. Yemina party leader and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced he would establish a special team to lay the groundwork for applying sovereignty.

His political partner, former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also pushed back against the possibility that Israel’s attorney general could rule that a transitional government didn’t have the authority to make far-reaching decisions regarding sovereignty.