In Brief

Israel delays controversial West Bank annexation

PM Benjamin Netanyahu misses target date for starting much-criticised separation process

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has missed a self-imposed 1 July target date to begin annexing parts of the West Bank, amid international pressure to abandon the plan.

Israeli cabinet minister Ofir Akunis confirmed on Wednesday that the annexation of occupied Palestinian territories had been delayed and that “officials were still working out the final details with their US counterparts officials”, The Guardian reports. But Akunis insisted that “he still expected the annexation to take place later in July”, the newspaper adds.

Under a peace plan put forward by the Donald Trump administration in January, Israel aims to establish sovereignty over a third of the West Bank territories that the state has occupied since 1967.  

However, senior US officials are now worried about how the plans will affect ties with “pro-Western” Arab nations, which along with the United Nations and the European Union, “have said the move would violate international law”, The Times reports.

Centrist ministers within Netanyahu’s government have also expressed reservations about annexation, which Palestinians view as an illegal land grab.

Both the UN and the EU warned last week that such a move would be likely to incite violent clashes in the region and dash any hopes of a two-state solution, as The New York Times reported.

Boris Johnson has also weighed in, warning in an article for Israel’s ynetnews that annexation represented a “violation of international law, which will not be accepted by London”.

Netanyahu had pushed the issue to the forefront of his policy agenda over the last 18 months, during which he has fought three election campaigns.

With polls over in the US appearing to show that Trump is unlikely to win his upcoming presidential election battle,  “leaders of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, which are key allies of the Netanyahu administration, have voiced concern that any delay will end up in annexation being cancelled”, The Independent reports. 

In a bid to reassure his base, Netanyahu’s  office issued a statement yesterday insisting that “additional discussions will be held in the coming days” between US diplomats and Israeli defence officials.  

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