U.S. ambassador warns Israel against annexing West Bank settlements before getting U.S. approval

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks at the opening of Pilgrimage Road at the City of David archaeological site in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, on June 30, 2019. (Flash90) 

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Any unilateral Israeli action toward annexing West Bank territory could endanger the Trump administration’s peace plan, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman warned in a two-part tweet Sunday.

Friedman wrote that the United States needs to approve any annexation plans before Israel takes action.

Friedman’s tweets came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Israel had begun taking steps toward annexation.

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“We are already at the height of the process of mapping the area that, according to the Trump plan, will become part of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said at a campaign event Saturday night in Ma’ale Adumim, a West Bank city near Jerusalem that would be annexed under Trump’s plan. “It won’t take too long.”

Friedman’s tweet also signaled a complete reversal of the ambassador’s earlier support for immediate annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley. He had told reporters at the White House immediately after the announcement that Israel could, in his view, “annex settlements at any time” and that the country “should not wait at all” to do so.

He began walking those comments back the following day, saying it is a “process that requires some effort,” and that Israel would first need to present detailed maps before the United States would approve such a move. Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and the plan’s architect, has said Israel should wait until after next month’s elections before taking action.

Under the plan, the United States would approve of Israel annexing about 30 percent of the West Bank, including all of the Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley.