Middle East Eye / May 13, 2020
US Secretary of State urges Israeli leaders to make sure annexation plans align with Washington’s plans for region.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Israeli leaders to consider “all the factors” in a proposed de facto annexation of the occupied West Bank, so that it aligns with Washington’s plan for the region.
Pompeo made the remarks during a one-day visit to Israel on Wednesday, when he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition partner Benny Gantz. Washington’s chief diplomat did not meet with any Palestinian leaders.
Pompeo said he discussed the issue of annexation with the two leaders, “but also many other issues related to it – how to deal with all the factors involved, and how to make sure the move is done properly to bring about an outcome in accordance with the vision of peace,” according to the Israel Hayom newspaper.
Under the coalition agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said cabinet discussions will start in early July over extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, as was mooted in US President Donald Trump’s recently announced Middle East plan.
The proposed annexations have been slammed by the Palestinians, and opposed by much of the international community, including the European Union and the United Nations.
Senior Palestinian officials expressed “deep disappointment” in the way Arab countries have handled the issue and criticised the stances of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“We are furious and heavily disappointed in the Arab rulers who have done nothing less than betray us,” senior officials told Israel Hayom.
‘Burying the rights of Palestinians’
Israeli settlements have been deemed illegal under international law, which prohibits military powers from transferring their populations to areas they have occupied by force.
The Trump administration has consistently sided with Israel over the Palestinians, including in recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there.
Last year, Washington dropped the term “Israeli-occupied” from the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights territories, saying it it would no longer abide by a 1978 State Department legal opinion that the settlements were “inconsistent with international law”.
It has also officially recognised the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as “sovereign Israeli territory”.
The PLO’s top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said earlier this week that Pompeo’s team had not reached out the Palestinians before his visit.
“The Trump administration is collaborating with Israel in its annexation plan in what is both an attempt at burying the rights of the Palestinian people as well as a blatant attack on a rules-based international system,” he said.