US denies discussing West Bank settlements annexation with Netanyahu

General view of houses of the Israeli settlement of Givat Ze'ev in the occupied West Bank. (File Photo: Reuters)
Updated 13 February 2018

US denies discussing West Bank settlements annexation with Netanyahu

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he has discussed legislation with the United States that would annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, but the White House denied it in a rare show of disunity.
Netanyahu later issued a clarification somewhat backing away from the deeply controversial statement.
Annexing settlements would severely damage remaining prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and draw international outrage, but Netanyahu has been under heavy political pressure to support it.
“Regarding the issue of applying sovereignty, I can tell you that I have for some time been speaking with the Americans about it,” Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud party, according to comments relayed by a spokesman.
Netanyahu said he wanted to coordinate any such “historic” move with the United States because of the country’s strategic importance to Israel, his spokesman said.
Some Israeli media interpreted the comments as the first time Netanyahu expressed support for annexing the settlements.
But when it became clear the White House was not confirming the remarks, Netanyahu’s office issued a clarification.
Netanyahu “did not present the United States with specific annexation proposals, and in any case the United States did not give its consent to the proposals,” an Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.
“Israel updated the United States on various proposals raised in the (parliament), and the United States expressed its clear position that it seeks to advance President Trump’s peace plan.”
The official added that Netanyahu’s position “is that if the Palestinians persist in their refusal to negotiate peace, Israel will present its own alternatives.”
White House spokesman Josh Raffel said “reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false.”
“The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.”
Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, had condemned Netanyahu’s earlier remarks as amounting to “land theft” with US complicity.
Netanyahu faces pressure from right-wing politicians to move ahead with legislation that would apply Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank.
Two lawmakers, including one from Netanyahu’s party, have proposed such legislation.
Netanyahu blocked it from being advanced on Sunday, with officials citing the need to focus on security issues following a confrontation that led to Israeli air strikes in Syria at the weekend.
Israel has sought to take advantage of Trump’s strong support, highlighted by his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, called “historic” by Netanyahu but denounced by the Palestinians and most of the rest of the world.
Monday’s episode showed there may be limits to Trump’s backing as he pledges to reach what he calls the “ultimate deal” — Israeli-Palestinian peace.
While Israel would expect to retain certain settlements in any two-state peace deal, longstanding international consensus has been that their status must be negotiated.
The same consensus has been in place for decades regarding the status of Jerusalem, with the Palestinians wanting the Israeli-annexed eastern sector of the city as the capital of their future state.
Israeli settlements are located in what is known as Area C of the West Bank, which accounts for more than 60 percent of the Palestinian territory.
Annexing all settlements would leave little space for a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history, and prominent ministers openly oppose a Palestinian state.
Those who oppose a Palestinian state advocate for Israel to annex most of the West Bank, citing Jews’ historical ties to the land from the biblical era.
Netanyahu says he wants the Palestinians to govern themselves, but in recent months has declined to specify whether that would mean an independent Palestinian state or some lesser form of autonomy.
He has stressed recently that Israel must retain security control in the Palestinian territories under any peace arrangement.
While Trump has offered strong support of Israel, he said in an interview published Sunday that he was “not necessarily sure” the country was seeking to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
“Right now, I would say the Palestinians are not looking to make peace,” Trump said in the interview with right-wing Israeli paper Israel Hayom.
“And I am not necessarily sure that Israel is looking to make peace.”
In a rare rebuke, he also said Israeli settlement building “complicates” peace efforts.
Separately, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday.
Putin said at the start of the talks that he “just spoke” with Trump on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

  • Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption

BEIRUT: Three lawmakers and members of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc will not abide by its decision to name a new prime minister on Monday. 

Meanwhile, activists in the civil movement are holding meetings to announce a general strike and the blocking of roads on Monday in protest over reports that the new government will not include technocrats.

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption. He later said he would not agree to head a new government unless it consisted of technocrats.

Lawmaker Neemat Frem urged citizens to provide him with the name of their favorite candidate to head the new government, “for you are the primary source of authority, and it is my duty to convey your voice in the binding parliamentary consultations.”

Lawmaker Chamel Roukoz said he will not nominate anyone for the position of prime minister.

Lawmaker Michel Daher declared his intention to boycott the parliamentary consultations if Al-Khatib is the only candidate.

Aoun assured a delegation of British financial and investment institutions, and US bank Morgan Stanley, that binding parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to form a new government, which will help Lebanon’s friends launch agreed-to development projects.

“The new government’s priority will be to address the economic and financial conditions as soon as it is formed,” he said.


Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

On Friday, Hariri sent letters to the leaders of a number of countries with good relations with Lebanon. 

He asked them to help Lebanon secure credit to import goods from these countries, in order to ensure food security and availability of raw materials for production in various sectors.

His media office said the move “is part of his efforts to address the shortage of financial liquidity, and to secure procuring the basic import requirements for citizens.”

Among the leaders Hariri wrote to are Saudi Arabia’s King Salman; the presidents of France, Russia, Egypt and Turkey; the prime ministers of China and Italy; and the US secretary of state.

On Dec. 11, Paris is due to host a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. Reuters quoted a European source as saying: “France has already sent invitations to attend the group meeting.”

Protesters continued their sit-ins in front of government institutions in Nabatieh, Zahle and Saida.

In Tripoli, protesters blocked the city’s main roads, which were eventually reopened by the army.

In Akkar, protesters raided public institutions and called for an “independent government that fights corruption, restores looted funds, and rescues the economic situation and living conditions from total collapse.”

Lebanese designer Robert Abi Nader canceled a fashion show that was due to be organized in Downtown Beirut, where protesters are gathering. 

Abi Nader said he intended through his show to express support for the protests by designing a special outfit called “the bride of the revolution,” and revenues were to be dedicated to families in need.