A controversial decision on whether to annex much of the occupied West Bank is the prerogative of Israel’s new unity government, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.
A breakthrough coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz had mentioned a role for the US in deciding on future moves.
“As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions,” Pompeo told reporters. “That’s an Israeli decision.”
“We will work closely with them to share with them our views in a private setting,” he said.
He praised this week’s power-sharing deal between Netanyahu and Gantz following three consecutive elections that ended inconclusively.
“A fourth election, we think, would not have been in Israel’s best interest,” Pompeo said.
“We’re glad that there is a now fully formed government in Israel,” he said.
President Donald Trump earlier this year outlined a plan for the Middle East that gave Israel the green light to annex Israeli settlements and other strategic territory in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu had heralded the Trump plan as a historic opportunity for Israel but Gantz had been more cautious.
Under a coalition agreement, the Israeli cabinet can take up Trump’s plan as well as annexation starting on July 1. It states that any measures would be executed “in full agreement of the US.”
The Palestinians as well as the European Union have criticized the Trump plan as effectively closing the door to a two-state solution in the Middle East.
Pompeo, however, has said that the US does not consider settlements in the Palestinian territories to be a violation of international law -- a break from the global consensus.