CHICAGO: The Trump administration has no public comment to make about Israel’s plans to push forward with its annexation of the West Bank, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Wednesday.
After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz on Monday formed a coalition government, following the country’s third election in a year, they announced that the annexation of major parts of the West Bank will begin on July 1.
Gantz said this would be subject to American support. However, Pompeo on Wednesday said annexation is an Israeli decision that the US will monitor.
“We’re happy … a new government is formed. A fourth election, we think, wouldn’t have been in Israel’s best interest … We think it’s not in the world’s best interest,” he added.
“As for the annexation in the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions. That’s an Israeli decision, and we’ll work closely with them to share with them our views of this in a private setting.”
Pompeo was speaking at a press conference that began with him wishing Muslims a happy Ramadan, and during which he mentioned the first anniversary of the killing of hundreds Christians in Sri Lanka last Easter, and Israel’s commemoration of the Holocaust.
He also revealed that the US is sending $5 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority to help combat coronavirus.
He reiterated that the Trump administration had halted other financial aid because of concerns about where the money would end up.
“The reason we stopped providing assistance previously was that these resources weren’t getting to the place they needed to (go), to the Palestinian people,” Pompeo said.
“We hope that this money, this $5 million, will get where it needs to go to provide real assistance to the Palestinian people, who … are going to need a lot of help as they move through this.”
He said the Trump administration will evaluate whether the aid has been used properly and whether there are any additional resources “that are appropriate or can be delivered in a way that actually gets to the Palestinian people.”
The administration began to suspend financial aid to the Palestinians in January 2018 when it halted all funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees displaced by Israel’s wars in 1948 and 1967.
The following August, US President Donald Trump ordered further cuts of more than $200 million to funding for aid programs in the West Bank and Gaza, saying the money would instead be used to fund projects elsewhere.
This was seen by many analysts as an attempt to apply pressure on the Palestinians in an attempt to force them back to the negotiating table with Israel.
In February 2019, the US pushed through legislation that would potentially expose Palestinian aid recipients to lawsuits filed by Jews in America over acts of alleged terrorism in the Middle East.
As a result, the Palestinians asked that the aid they were still receiving from the US, which was provided by the US Agency for International Development, be suspended to avoid exposure to legal action.