Asharq al-Awsat / April 23, 2020
A controversial decision on whether to annex much of the West Bank is the prerogative of Israel’s new unity government, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday, adding that Washington would offer it its views privately.
A breakthrough coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz had mentioned a role for the United States in deciding on future moves.
“As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions,” Pompeo told reporters. “That’s an Israeli decision. And we will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in (a) private setting.”
Pompeo also said he was “happy” Netanyahu and Gantz struck the deal on Monday to form a national emergency government, saying he did not think a fourth Israeli election was in Israel’s interest.
“We’re glad that there is a now fully formed government in Israel,” he said.
Pompeo’s comment drew condemnation from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who said his administration would view agreements with Israel and the United States as “completely cancelled” if Israel annexes land in the West Bank.
“We have informed the relevant international parties, including the American and the Israeli governments, that we will not stand hand-cuffed if Israel announces the annexation of any part of our land,” Abbas said on Palestine TV.
US President Donald Trump earlier this year outlined a plan for the Middle East that gave Israel the green light to annex Jewish settlements and other strategic territory in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu had heralded the Trump plan as a historic opportunity for Israel but Gantz had been more cautious.
Under the coalition agreement, the Israeli cabinet can take up Trump’s plan as well as annexation starting on July 1. It states that any measures would be executed “in full agreement of the United States.”