Trump Mideast Team Discusses Israel’s Potential Annexation Plan

White House officials held talks this week over Israel’s potential annexation of settlements in the occupied West Bank while European officials warned that unilateral action in the contested region would lead to a diplomatic backlash.

“There are conversations being had,” Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, told reporters at the White House. “Obviously, the president will have an announcement. He’s talked about this in the past and I’ll leave it to him to give you a big announcement. Very happy those talks continue.”

Israel plans to begin the annexation process next month over opposition from European and some Arab leaders who say it likely will end Palestinian hopes for an independent state. U.K. Minister for the Middle East James Cleverly warned annexation could “not go unanswered” while Germany’s ambassador to the United Nations, Christoph Heusgen, said Israel risks damaging its relations with Europe.

“The annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank would constitute a serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-State solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said during the Security Council meeting.

The White House unveiled a long-promised peace plan in January, which opened the door to annexation but was met with swift opposition from Palestinian leaders for heavily favoring Israel. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft told the Security Council on Wednesday that the plan is “not set in stone. It is an opening offer. It is the beginning of a conversation -- not the end of one.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined Trump to unveil the plan at the White House in January, and Israel immediately began seeking an agreement with the U.S. to annex territory in the West Bank.

Conway didn’t specify which administration officials are taking part in the discussions over annexation. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for details on the talks.

Trump “wants to be an agent for peace in the Middle East and he’s trying to do that,” Conway said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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