Israeli Cabinet vote on West Bank annexation won’t happen Sunday, but next week appears possible


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The timeline is growing hazy for an Israeli Cabinet vote on annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, one day after U.S. President Donald Trump revealed a peace plan endorsing the move.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday after Trump unveiled the plan at the White House that his Cabinet could act on Sunday. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Tuesday that he believed Israel could “annex settlements at any time” and had no reason to wait.

But Friedman walked those comments back Wednesday, and Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Wednesday that the vote would not take place during Sunday’s Cabinet meeting because more time is needed to prepare needed documents.

In addition, the Cabinet will have to wait for Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to weigh in, though he has said that he would not view the annexation of some territory as illegal.

Israeli news outlets reported on Wednesday evening that the Cabinet could take up the issue as early as Tuesday, however, and the annexation plan’s supporters say they are gearing up to take action.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, who also heads Yamina, the coalition of right-wing parties, announced Wednesday at the annual conference of the National Securities Studies think tank that he has established a “special team” to prepare for and coordinate the implementation of applying Israeli sovereignty over West Bank Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley.

The team includes representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, the IDF civil administration that oversees the West Bank, and other government offices and security services.

Friedman told reporters Wednesday that applying Israeli law to all Jewish settlements in the West Bank is a “process that requires some effort,” the Jerusalem Post reported. He also noted that Israel would first need to present detailed maps to a joint U.S.-Israel committee before the United States would approve such a move.

Israel “will do whatever it has to do and then the committee would form, we will be presented as part of a proposal, we will consider it and make a decision. I won’t speculate how long it’s going to take,” he said.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and an architect of the peace plan, told CNN on Tuesday evening that annexation represents a practical approach to the region.

“The reality is that Israel’s there, and they’re not leaving,” he said. “There’s never been a deal where they’ve contemplated doing that. And it’s not pragmatic. I’m not looking at the world as it existed in 1967. I’m looking at the world as it exists in 2020.”

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