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A picture taken on July 29, 2016 shows a general view of Israeli construction cranes and excavators at the building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Gilo in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem. The United States has slammed as "provocative" Israeli plans to build hundreds of new settlement homes in annexed east Jerusalem, saying they seriously undermined the prospect of peace with the Palestinians. / AFP PHOTO / AHMAD GHARABLI

Netanyahu notches up international blitz on West Bank annexation

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said April 26 that he was confident that President Donald Trump will enable the Israeli government to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank within a few months. Netanyahu, addressing by video a conference organized by the European Coalition for Israel lobbying group, said, “Three months ago, the Trump peace plan recognized Israel’s rights in all of Judea and Samaria [the biblical name of the West Bank]. And President Trump pledged to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Jewish communities there and in the Jordan Valley. A couple of months from now, I’m confident that that pledge will be honored.’’

Netanyahu is currently busy passing legislation at the Knesset that would allow the Likud and Blue and White to form a new government. So why was the prime minister in such a rush to bring up the controversial annexation issue again?

One reason is a domestic one: Netanyahu wants to lock Blue and White into an annexation policy, even though the party is hardly enthusiastic about this. The unity agreement says that Netanyahu can raise the issue in the near future and that any such proposal would be brought to the Knesset for approval, with each coalition party free to vote as it deems appropriate. This was the escape path Blue and White leader Benny Gantz guaranteed for himself and for his party.

On the international level, Netanyahu’s statement was made just a few days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the decision on annexation is in Jerusalem’s hands. “That’s [annexation] an Israeli decision. And we will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in [a] private setting,” Pompeo said.

Palestinians saw the two statements as being coordinated.

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