Author: Samuel Osborne
US President Donald Trump’s administration has explicitly warned Israel against annexing parts of the occupied West Bank, saying it would trigger an «immediate crisis,» Israel’s defence minister ha ssaid.
Addressing the Israeli parliament, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said US officials had been clear in their opposition to Israeli annexation of West Bank land.
«We received a direct message — not an indirect message and not a hint — from the United States,» Mr Lieberman said.
«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 Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
The idea of annexing parts of the West Bank has gained increased popularity in far-right Israeli circles since Mr Trump’s election.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank as the heartland of a future state, an endeavour with wide international backing.
The US reaction was sparked by comments by Miki Zohar, a junior MK in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist Likud Party.
Mr Zohar is among a growing number of coalition members who reject the internationally backed idea of a Palestinian state and instead suggest Israel should annex the West Bank.
Under this version of a «one-state» scenario, the West Bank’s more than two million Palestinians would receive expanded autonomy, but not hold full Israeli citizenship or be allowed to vote for the Knesset.
Although Mr Netanyahu has not endorsed the one-state vision, many in his coalition do.
«The two-state solution is dead,» Mr 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 be able to vote and be elected in their city under administrative autonomy and under Israeli sovereignty and with complete security control,» Mr Zohar added.
Mr Lieberman said he received phone calls «from the entire world» about whether Mr 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 and called on the governing coalition to «clarify very clearly, there is no intention to impose Israeli sovereignty.»
In a striking departure from America’s longtime policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr Trump has not explicitly embraced a two-state solution.
Last month, he said he would support whatever solution is acceptable to both sides. He also asked Mr Netanyahu to «hold back on settlements».
His comments raised questions about what kind of agreement could be reached and led to calls by hard line members of Mr 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.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who supports a partial annexation of the West Bank, said she was unaware of any controversy with the Trump administration and that Israel in any case is free to do as it sees fit.
«We are not a banana republic. We are an independent and sovereign state,» she told Israel’s Army Radio station. «There is a supportive administration in the United States. That administration needs to back up the state of Israel and the government’s policy.»