With less than a week to go before Israel hopes to move forward with annexation, it is unclear whether it has the support of its most important ally: the United States.
The US envoys arrived in Israel on Friday as the Trump administration was still undecided about whether to support the country’s plans to extend sovereignty to parts of the occupied West Bank, a senior White House official told NBC News.
Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and White House special envoy Avi Berkowitz traveled to Israel on Thursday night, along with mapping expert Scott Leigh, for more meetings and analysis, the official said.
His visit comes after several days of White House meetings on the subject that also involved presidential adviser Jared Kushner. The official told NBC News on Thursday that the meetings were “productive” but inconclusive, alluding to concerns about how the annexation could affect the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan.
“There is still no final decision on the next steps to implement the Trump plan,” said the official.
Friedman had returned to Washington for the highly anticipated meetings with Kushner and other top American officials involved in Middle East politics.
Netanyahu has been seeking formal support from the United States before proceeding. His government’s coalition agreement says that starting July 1, the prime minister can present the annexation for debate with his cabinet.
Palestinians strongly oppose the measure and consider it a violation of international law. They hope that the West Bank, which was captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, form an important part of a future Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Exactly what land Netanyahu plans to annex is unclear, but has indicated that it will fit into the Trump administration’s peace plan in the region, announced in January.
The United States plan would allow Israel to annex about a third of the West Bank, including the main settlement blocs, as well as the strategic and fertile Jordan Valley, the region’s breadbasket on the border with Jordan. It also provides for a separate Palestinian state but one that does not meet Palestinian demands.
Palestinians have rejected Trump’s plan as biased towards Israel.
Earlier this year, the top administration official told NBC News that accepting Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians was one of the conditions for the United States to recognize Israeli sovereignty over parts of the territory. It is unclear whether Washington will approve Netanyahu’s plans if there are no signs of negotiations.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated on Wednesday that decisions about the extension of sovereignty were for Israel to make.
“We revealed a vision of peace in the Middle East a few months ago and we continue to work down that path,” he told reporters.
Most of the international community opposes annexation, and many fear that it will deal a blow to the hopes of a viable Palestinian state and further hamper the achievement of regional peace. A two-state solution based on the 1967 lines is still widely seen as the only way to resolve the decades-long conflict.
The 1967 lines refer to the armistice lines before the Arab-Israeli war of that year in which Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, among other territories.