With new Israeli government in place, Netanyahu recommits to peace talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu , right, wearing a protective face mask, arrives for the swearing-in ceremony at Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in Jerusalem, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomiensky/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to return to the Trump administration peace plan now that his government is in place, and signaled that he accepts U.S. demands that he annex territory only in the context of the peace negotiations.

The Trump administration and Netanyahu’s main coalition partner, the Blue and White party, have said that any annexation of parts of the West Bank should only be made in consultation with the United States and as part of talks with the Palestinians.

“When I visited Washington at the beginning of the year for the presentation of President’s Trump vision for peace, he announced that according to his vision, Jerusalem will remain the undivided capital of Israel,” Netanyahu said, speaking Thursday to mark Jerusalem Day, the Hebrew calendar anniversary of Israel’s capturing of eastern Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, reuniting the capital.

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“This is important for Jerusalem,” he said. “This is important for our people. This is important for the State of Israel. I said in Washington that I am prepared to enter negotiations on the basis of President’s Trump vision for peace. Following the establishment of Israel’s unity government, I say so again today. I was happy to hear this week that my partners to the new government also share this view.”

Netanyahu saying that he was ready to move ahead “on the basis” of the Trump plan and mentioning his coalition partners was significant. Trump’s peace plan allows Israel to annex parts of the West Bank, but Trump officials have said in recent days that any move should come once the Palestinians are on board with the peace plan. The plan gives the Palestinians four years to accept its terms.

“We really think annexation should be part of a peace process where Palestinians should have a say,” Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokesperson, said this week.

That’s not likely to happen soon. The Palestinian Authority is ending its partnerships with Israel because of the peace plan, which recognizes Israel’s claim to Jerusalem and allows annexation as part of a final deal.

The Times of Israel reported Friday that the Palestinian Authority was already taking steps to end security cooperation with Israel.