Israel delays plans to annex West Bank city until after Trump meeting
Palestinian labourers work at a construction site in a new housing project in the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, on January 22, 2017. (AFP/Menahem Kahana)
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Israel's Security Cabinet voted Sunday to delay discussion on a proposed annexation of a West Bank city just east of Jerusalem until President Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with US President Donald Trump later in the day.
In a unanimous vote, the ministers voted to hold off on discussing the bill, which would extend Israeli law over the city of Maale Adumim. The annexation would be the first time Israel extended sovereignty of the area since 1967, when the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem were enlarged.
Netanyahu was scheduled to speak on the telephone with the new US president Sunday and has plans to meet with him in late March, but Yediot Aharonot reported the meeting could be pushed up to February.
"I appreciate President Trump's deep friendship for Israel, and his declared willingness to fight radical Islamic terrorism with full force," Netanyahu's official Twitter account said Sunday before the call.
A source told the Jerusalem Post that Netnayahu called Education Minister Naftali Bennett and asked to delay the discussion. Bennett chairs the Bayit Yehudi Party and was a strong proponent of the bill.
Minister Yoav Kisch, a member of the Likud Party, is one of the authors of the bill, which would retroactively legalize 4,000 homes built on private Palestinian property. Maale Adumim's population of close to 38,000 is the third-largest West Bank settlement.
"The prime minister isn't against the bill in general, but he wants to coordinate with Trump and have a meeting with the president before he goes ahead with it," Kisch told the Post.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday urged Knesset members and ministers to wait.
"We have to give [the Trump administration] a chance to enter [their offices] and sit down on their chairs and then we can start a dialogue with them," Liberman said. "They are coming in with the best intentions and we have to start to speak with them. We shouldn't surprise them or present them with done deals, certainly not with regard to strategy. This isn't a tactical issue, this is a strategic issue."
Trump disagreed with the Obama administration decision not to veto the UN's Israeli settlement resolution on Dec 23. He also wants the US Embassy moved to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
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