US ambassador: We’ll fight any attempt at Israeli annexation

Declaring Israeli sovereignty over at least Area C of Judea and Samaria is a key demand of the Religious Zionism party.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides on Thursday expressed his country’s total opposition to the application of Israeli sovereignty to sections of Judea and Samaria, according to a Kan News report Wednesday night.

Political reporter Gili Cohen said that Nides had told her in an interview that “The United States will fight any attempt at annexation,” adding that opposition to such a move is shared by “most Western countries.”

Cohen said that his words came in reaction to MK Yariv Levin, who had said earlier in the day, “We were one step away from applying sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and I hope that we’ll make fewer declarations and move forward more with actions.”

Levin is both a confidante of designated prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reportedly one of those vying to head the Justice Ministry, where the details of applying Israeli law to the disputed territory would be worked out.

After former U.S. president Donald Trump had unveiled his peace plan in January 2020 that envisioned some 30% of the disputed region becoming internationally-recognized parts of Israel, Netanyahu, who was then the Israeli leader, had announced that his government would be applying sovereignty there within days.

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Although there is some dispute over what happened next, ultimately Netanyahu put the move on hold. When the Abraham Accords were signed later that year normalizing Israel’s relations with the UAE and Bahrain, Netanyahu made it clear that dropping the push for sovereignty had been crucial to the deal, which he noted was far more important to Israel’s interests.

Having at least all the Jewish villages and towns in Judea and Samaria (Area C) run by Israeli government ministries instead of the military is also a key coalition demand of the Religious Zionism party. Party head MK Betzalel Smotrich said Tuesday that the IDF’s Civil Administration, which governs all aspects of life in the region and is accused by the Right of constantly obstructing Jewish settlement activities, should only have jurisdiction over the Palestinians.

This kind of de facto sovereignty would not necessarily be accompanied by de jure recognition by the Knesset.

Nides’ strong statement followed his declaration that although the U.S. is a “very, very strong ally” of Israel and he wants to “work closely” with Netanyahu, the U.S. “has to stand up for the things that we believe in” and “articulate the differences” it may have with the incoming government.

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