John T Bennet – White House officials and senior lawmakers are operating under the assumption that Israel will soon begin annexing areas of the West Bank, according to a Senate source familiar with recent conversations.
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, Donald Trump‘s son-in-law and top Middle East peace envoy, briefed senators on Wednesday behind closed doors about efforts between the United States and Israel to continue implementing pieces of the White House’s recently unveiled peace plan.
That plan features a map that includes a Palestinian state that is spread across various parts of Israel. Like the rest of the proposed peace framework, Palestinian leaders quickly rejected it.
They are refusing to begin negotiations after the US president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during an elaborate White House ceremony earlier this year to roll out the plan, offered to start a new round of talks with the new proposal as the starting point.
Without the Palestinian side at the table, however, the Trump and Netanyahu administrations are seizing the moment. A joint group met recently in Jerusalem to discuss areas in the West Bank that Washington could soon recognise as part of Israel, Axios reported.
The area long has been the site of tensions and violence between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority.
Axios also reported that a “path could soon be cleared for Israel to annex areas of the West Bank envisioned as part of Israel under the plan.”
A Senate source told The Independent that during the Wednesday briefing with senators, “Kushner certainly did not present an annexation endorsement.”
But even shy of the words leaving the presidential son-in-law’s mouth, the source said “it was certainly understood by everyone in the room that the administration acknowledges this is what is most likely to happen.”
Notably, the source offered an insider’s account of one moment from the Wednesday briefing.
“When asked directly by a member about annexation, Kushner cited his previous public pushback against it as well as the criticisms he endured from within Israel after he made those comments,” the Senate source said.
A White House official did not push back on the notion that administration officials have signalled to Netanyahu that the White House would not be opposed to the start of an annexation round on the West Bank.