Israel postpones annexation vote after Middle East peace plan release

Israel postpones annexation vote after Middle East peace plan release
Israel postpones annexation vote after Middle East peace plan release

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Israel has postponed a cabinet vote to endorse the annexation of settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank scheduled for Sunday despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to move quickly to legalise the outposts after US President Donald released his long-awaited peace plan.

The plan, a 180-page document rejected by the Palestinians, advocates leaving settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and occupied West Bank in Israel’s hands despite the international community’s position that they are illegal under international law.

Mr Netanyahu said immediately after the roll out of the plan that he would ask the Cabinet to advance the extension of Israeli sovereignty over most Jewish settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, a move that would likely spark international outrage and complicate the White House's efforts to build support for the plan.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told Israel Radio that a Cabinet vote on annexing territories on Sunday was not technically feasible because of various preparations, including "bringing the proposal before the attorney general and letting him consider the matter."

The document also leaves the entirety of Jerusalem inside the security barrier that lines its eastern flank to Israel, with a Palestinian state outside of that wall, and its capital reserved to the under-served Arab communities on the outskirts of the city.

The Palestinians seek occupied East Jerusalem, which hosts the holiest sites in Islam and Judaism, as its capital of a future state.

Mr Levin, a senior member of Mr Netanyahu's Likud party, said the Palestinian state envisioned by the Trump plan is "roughly the same Palestinian Authority that exists today, with authority to manage civil affairs," but lacking "substantive powers" like border control or a military.

The Trump administration had hoped to rally Arab countries around the plan, but so far reactions have been mixed. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, key US allies, welcomed the effort and encouraged negotiations without commenting on the plan itself.

Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has warned against any Israeli "annexation of Palestinian lands," reaffirming its commitment to an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.

The head of the Arab League said Wednesday that an initial study of the 50-page plan showed that it "ignored legitimate Palestinian rights in the territories."

Ahmed Abou Gheit said the Palestinian response would be key in shaping a "collective Arab position" on the plan.

"Achieving a just and sustainable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians depends on the will of both sides," he said. "The peace plan announced by the US president reflected a non-binding US vision."

Updated: January 29, 2020 05:08 PM

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