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US Warns Israel about Annexing West Bank | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Members of Palestinian security forces take position during a raid following clashes with Palestinian gunmen in the old town of the West Bank city of Nablus, August 19, 2016. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

Israel’s defense minister said Monday that the United States has warned Israel against imposing Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, saying that would lead to an “immediate crisis” with President Donald Trump administration.

“We received a direct message — not an indirect message and not a hint — from the United States. Imposing Israeli sovereignty on Judea and Samaria would mean an immediate crisis with the new administration,” Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at the start of parliament’s foreign affairs and defense committee meeting. Judea and Samaria is the biblical term for the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967. Some 2.6 million Palestinians live there.

The latest call for annexation came on Sunday, when lawmaker Miki Zohar from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party said in a television interview that “the two-state solution is dead”.

“The two-state solution is dead,” Zohar told i24NEWS, an Israeli TV channel. “What is left is a one-state solution with the Arabs here as, not as full citizenship, because full citizenship can let them to vote to the Knesset. They will get all of the rights like every citizen except voting for the Knesset,” the Israeli parliament.

“They will be able to vote and be elected in their city under administrative autonomy and under Israeli sovereignty and with complete security control,” Zohar added.

Lieberman said he received phone calls “from the entire world” about whether Zohar’s proposal reflected the Israeli government’s position.

He said annexation would provoke a crisis with Washington and result in the financial burden of providing Palestinians with health care and other benefits, explaining Israel immediately “will be required to spend 20 billion shekels ($5.4 billion, 5.1 billion euros)” on various social services.

He called on the governing coalition to “clarify very clearly, there is no intention to impose Israeli sovereignty.”

In a striking departure from longtime American policy, Trump has not explicitly embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which Israel would end its occupation of the West Bank and an independent Palestinian state would be established alongside Israel. Trump said last month he would support whatever solution is acceptable to both sides.

That has raised questions about what kind of agreement could be reached, and has led to calls by hard line members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet to give up on the idea of a Palestinian state and formally annex part or all of the West Bank to Israel. A single binational state could require Israel to grant citizenship to millions Palestinians under its control, threatening its status as a Jewish-majority democracy.