Netanyahu delays sovereignty deadline after discussion with US

“I spoke about the question of sovereignty [with U.S. officials,] which we are working on these days and we will continue to work on in the coming days,” Netanyahu said.

By Associated Press

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that discussions with the U.S. on his plan to extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria would continue “in the coming days,” indicating he would miss a July 1 target date for beginning the process.

Netanyahu made the comments shortly after wrapping up talks with White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The sides have been holding talks for several months on finalizing a map spelling out which areas of Judea and Samaria Israel will extend sovereignty over.

“I spoke about the question of sovereignty, which we are working on these days and we will continue to work on in the coming days,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu has been eager to begin the sovereignty process.

Under U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan, unveiled in January, around 30 percent of Judea and Samaria will come under permanent Israeli control, while giving the Palestinians autonomy in the vast majority of the territory.

The U.N. secretary-general, the European Union and key Arab countries have all claimed Israeli sovereignty violates international law. The Palestinians, led by rejectioninst leaders who seek all of Judea and Samaria as part of a future state, dismissed the Trump plan wholesale.

Israel gained control of Judea and Samaria from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, a conflict during which four Arab states attacked Israel.

The UN and several EU member states consider Judea and Samaria to be occupied “Palestinian territory,” despite the fact that no Palestinian state has ever existed there, and consistently label Israel’s more than 120 communities there as “llegal.”

But Trump has taken a far more conciliatory line than his Republican and Democratic predecessors. Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, has said Israel must take capitalize on a “historic opportunity,” and is eager to move forward before the November presidential election.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV reported that the American negotiators are asking Israel to make “a significant step” as a gesture to the Palestinians, such as handing over Judea and Samaria territory to Palestinian control comparable to that annexed.

Annexing all Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, including the strategic Jordan Valley, is necessary to protect Israeli security, according to pro-sovereignty experts. The move has also been defended in religious terms, because Judea and Samaria are part of the biblical Land of Israel.

Besides international opposition, Netanyahu has encountered some resistance from his governing partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

The coalition agreement for their new government, which took office in May, gives Netanyahu the authority to present an annexation proposal after Wednesday. But U.S. officials have said they do not want to move forward with a plan unless the two leaders are in agreement.

Gantz, who also holds the title of alternate prime minister, said Monday that the July 1 target date was not “sacred.” He also said that annexation “will wait” while the government grapples with Israel’s health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.