Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that discussions with the US over his plan to annex the occupied West Bank territory will continue "in the coming days," indicating that a target date of July 1 to start will be missed. the controversial process.
Netanyahu made the comments shortly after concluding talks with White House envoy Avi Berkowitz and the United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The parties have been holding talks for several months about finalizing a map detailing which areas of the West Bank will be annexed by Israel.
"I spoke on the issue of sovereignty, which we are working on these days and will continue to work on in the coming days," Netanyahu said.
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Netanyahu has been eager to start annexing the West Bank territory in line with President Donald Trump's Middle East plan. The plan, presented in January, plans to hand over about 30% of the territory under permanent Israeli control, while granting Palestinians autonomy in the remaining lands.
But the plan to redraw the map of the Middle East has come under strong international criticism. The UN Secretary General, the European Union and major Arab countries have said that Israeli annexation would violate international law and undermine the goal of establishing a viable independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Palestinians, who seek the entire West Bank as part of a future state, have rejected Trump's plan.
Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East War. The international community considers the territory to be occupied and that Israel's more than 120 settlements are illegal.
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But Trump has taken a much more conciliatory line than his Republican and Democratic predecessors. Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, has said that Israel must take advantage of what he calls a "historic opportunity", and is eager to move ahead of the November presidential election.
Netanyahu says his goal of annexing all the settlements, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley, is necessary to protect Israeli security. He has also defended it in religious terms, saying that the territories are part of the biblical land of Israel.
In addition to international opposition, Netanyahu has encountered some resistance from his government partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
The coalition agreement for his new government, which took office in May, gives Netanyahu the authority to submit a proposal for annexation after Wednesday. But US officials have said they don't want to move forward with a plan unless the two leaders agree.
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Gantz, who also has the title of deputy prime minister, said Monday that the target date of July 1 was not "sacred." He also said the annexation "will wait" as the government deals with Israel's health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.