US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said West Bank annexation is ultimately Israel’s decision, giving the green-light to Benjamin Netanyahu to announce great swathes of territory as falling under Israeli sovereignty.
Pompeo’s comments, made to reporters on Wednesday, came as he said Washington would offer its views privately to Israel’s new government, which was formed on Monday evening after opposition leader Benny Gantz agreed to enter into coalition.
“As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions,” he said. “We will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in private.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the US and Israel were “taking advantage” of the coronavirus pandemic “to violate our rights,” adding: “We will not allow anyone to violate our rights… We won’t sit with our hands crossed and do nothing.”
PA spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh said annexation would “have dangerous implications for the region’s security and stability” but both Netanyahu and Gantz have repeatedly spoken about “preserving Israel’s security and strategic interests”.
More than three quarters of Israeli parliamentarians now support annexation, which is planned to begin on or around 1 July, but outside the United States there is clear international opposition to the move, including in the UK.
A team of senior Israeli and American officials, including ambassadors and advisers, has begun work to coordinate the annexation bid, in order to ensure what US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman referred to as “a calibrated rendering”.