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US warns Israel over annexing West Bank

Israel receives direct message that such a move would spark an “immediate crisis” with the Trump administration

Image Credit: AFP
Relatives of Bassel Al Aaraj, a 31-year-old Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli troops in Ramallah, mourn during his funeral yesterday, in the West Bank village of Al Walajah.
Gulf News

Occupied Jerusalem: Israel’s defence minister says the US has notified Israel that annexing the West Bank would lead to an “immediate crisis” with the Trump administration.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Monday that, “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.”

Judea and Samaria is the biblical term for the West Bank, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967.

Lieberman was responding to a media interview with lawmaker Miki Zohar, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 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.

Lieberman was speaking to parliament’s foreign affairs and defence committee.

In January, the Israeli occupation’s minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Environmental Protection, Ze’ev Elkin, has called for the gradual Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Ukrainian-born Elkin, who is the chairman of the ruling coalition in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and head of the ruling Likud parliamentary faction, told a conference at Bar-Ilan University: “As a first step, Israel might annex colony blocks that enjoy across-the-border legitimacy among Israelis.

Many Palestinians fear the threats of annexation of the occupied West Bank are quickly becoming a reality.

“Israel is practically annexing all of Area C and great portions of Area B to expand its colonial enterprise on Palestinian national soil,” said Tayseer Khalid, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Under the Oslo Accords reached between the PLO and the Israeli regime, the occupied West Bank was split into three zones. Area A was to be under full Palestinian control, Area B under Palestinian administrative control and Israeli military control, and Area C would be under full Israeli military control.

Israel handles every two adjacent colonies as one colony block, with areas between the colonies connected by smaller Jewish colony outposts, turning the vast majority of the occupied West Bank into a hive of Jews-only colonies.

The move comes amid speculation that US President Donald Trump, who initially was believed to be very pro-Israeli, has softened his statements.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January called for Trump to make good on his campaign pledge to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Occupied Jerusalem.

Departing from a long-standing US position, Trump promised he would recognise Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the American mission there, a pledge that drew a fierce rebuke from Palestinian officials and concern from the European Union.

But later, US Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the move was merely in the “discussion” phase, in a statement that was widely interpreted as backtracking.

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