Israel has delayed a Bill that would connect a number of West Bank settlements to Jerusalem amid pressure from the United States.
The Bill aims to solidify the city’s Jewish majority, but stops short of formal annexation, making the practical implications unclear. It says the communities would be considered “daughter municipalities” of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians claim both east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, as part of their future state, a position that has wide international backing.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognised internationally.
Haaretz newspaper quoted prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying Israel needs to co-ordinate the Bill with the US.
“The Americans turned to us and inquired what the Bill was about. As we have been co-ordinating with them until now, it is worth (to continue) talking and co-ordinating with them. We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise,” the paper quoted Mr Netanyahu as saying at a government meeting on Sunday.
Earlier on Sunday, David Bitan, the Likud party’s parliamentary whip and a close Netanyahu ally, told Army Radio the vote was delayed because “there is American pressure claiming this is annexation”.
Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group, says the Bill would amount to “de facto annexation” and be a clear step towards full annexation of the West Bank.
US president Donald Trump’s envoy, Jason Greenblatt, has been shuttling throughout the region in the hope of restarting peace talks, which last collapsed in 2014.
But in contrast to the Obama administration, Mr Trump has not explicitly endorsed a Palestinian state.
He has also has shown some tolerance for settlement building, urging Israel to show restraint but saying a complete halt is unnecessary.
Israel says the fate of the settlements, home to more than 600,000 Israelis, should be decided through peace talks along with other core issues like security.