Pompeo: Annexing Judea and Samaria is ‘Israel’s decision’

“Israelis will ultimately make those decisions,” said the U.S. secretary of state on Wednesday, addressing Israeli sovereignty over portions of Judea and Samaria.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News Staff

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in on Israel’s plan to extend sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, fielding questions in the press briefing room at the State Department.

“As for the annexation of [Judea and Samaria], the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions,” said Pompeo, answering a question regarding Israel’s new unity government and its plans to begin annexation in July.

“That’s an Israeli decision, and we will work closely with them to share our views in a private setting,” Pompeo added.

The secretary of state also said that the Trump administration was “happy that a new [Israeli] government was formed,” referring to the coalition forged between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his primary challenger, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz. The two agreed to form a unity government on Monday evening, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister for the first 18 months of the term, and Gantz taking over after that.

“In less than two months, there will be [in Judea and Samaria] the application of sovereignty,” said Likud sources earlier in the week. “It’s a historic step in the annals of the State of Israel. It’s an achievement for the generations.”

Through its Mideast peace plan, the Trump administration signaled approval for Israeli sovereignty over Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, eschewing previous administrations’ demands that Israel make concessions to the Palestinians at the outset of negotiations.

It now appears that the Netanyahu-Gantz unity government is preparing to initiate the process of extending sovereignty in July. Israel gained control of Judea and Samaria in 1967, including eastern portions of Jerusalem, when it repelled an attack by Jordan, defeating four Arab nations in total during the Six-Day War.

In addition to his remarks on the issue of annexation, Pompeo also commented on the $5 million of aid that the U.S. recently released to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assist it in the COVID-19 battle.

“We hope [the aid] will get to the right places,” said Pompeo. “The reason we stopped providing assistance previously is that these resources weren’t getting to the Palestinian people.”

“We’ll evaluate whether these resources worked, [and] actually got to the Palestinian people,” Pompeo added.

The Trump administration has slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority, primarily due to its official policy of providing salaries to those who commit violent terror attacks against Israelis and stipends to the family members of Palestinians killed while committing terror-related crimes.

While Pompeo did not refer explicitly to the PA’s terror stipend policy, he alluded to the fact that foreign aid did not in the past “actually” reach Palestinians.

In 2017, The Washington Post reported that the PA paid $183 million to families of “martyrs,” a term that refers to terrorists killed during attacks on Israelis. That year, the PA paid an additional $160 million to prisoners incarcerated for terror attacks on Israelis. These individuals receive a salary that exceeds the average income for Palestinians.

In 2017, the PA received a total of $693 million in foreign aid and allocated $343 million for terror stipends.