Israeli minister: US warned Israel about annexing West Bank

Israeli minister: US warned Israel about annexing West Bank

JERUSALEM — Israel’s defence minister said Monday the U.S. has notified Israel that imposing Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank would lead to an “immediate crisis” with the Trump administration.

“We received a direct message — not an indirect message and not a hint — from the United States. Imposing Israeli sovereignty on Judea and Samaria would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at the start of parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee meeting. Judea and Samaria is the biblical term for the West Bank, land Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war and continues to occupy.

The defence minister was responding to a media interview with lawmaker Miki Zohar, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, in which he rejected the idea of a Palestinian state and advocated for a “one-state solution” in which Palestinians would have Israeli citizenship.

“The two-state solution is dead,” Zohar told i24NEWS, an Israeli TV channel. “What is left is a one-state solution with the Arabs here as, not as full citizenship, because full citizenship can let them to vote to the Knesset. They will get all of the rights like every citizen except voting for the Knesset,” the Israeli parliament.

“They will be able to vote and be elected in their city under administrative autonomy and under Israeli sovereignty and with complete security control,” Zohar added.

Lieberman said he received phone calls “from the entire world” about whether Zohar’s proposal reflected the Israeli government’s position. He said imposing Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank would mean Israel would be faced with the financial burden of providing Palestinians with health care and other benefits. He called on the governing coalition to “clarify very clearly, there is no intention to impose Israeli sovereignty.”

In a striking departure from longtime American policy, President Donald Trump has not explicitly embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which Israel would end its occupation of the West Bank and an independent Palestinian state would be established alongside Israel. Trump said last month he would support whatever solution is acceptable to both sides.

That has raised questions about what kind of agreement could be reached, and has led to calls by hard line members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet to give up on the idea of a Palestinian state and formally annex part or all of the West Bank to Israel. A single binational state could require Israel to grant citizenship to millions Palestinians under its control, threatening its status as a Jewish-majority democracy.

Daniel Estrin, The Associated Press

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