Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett failed to alter the official US position on the annexation of settlements or any areas in the West Bank before the elections or before presenting the plans to the US-Israeli Special Committee, according to informed sources.
The sources said that Bennett tried to present the vision of settlers' leaders on annexation, but his US counterpart, Mark Esper, refused to discuss it and refused to mention the ‘deal of the century’ in the joint statement.
Bennett arrived in Washington on a traditional visit made by every new Israeli defense minister to the Pentagon.
The joint statement indicated that the two officials only “discussed a broad range of defense-related issues to include regional threats, shared interests, and the importance of maintaining a strong military-to-military partnership moving forward.”
Meanwhile, settlers' leaders mounted a protest tent in front of the Knesset, calling on the government to enact a law that imposes Israeli sovereignty over the settlements established in the occupied West Bank, and annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea regions to Israel, rather than waiting till after March elections.
Dozens of far-right settlers and party leaders gather each day near the tent, which is also visited by schoolchildren and Jewish religious leaders. They demand the enactment of the annexation law before the elections, even if it involved a conflict with the US.
Netanyahu rejected the pressures saying at a Likud campaign event in Beit Shemesh that the decision to impose sovereignty over areas of the West Bank was postponed indefinitely.
“We, the Likud, won’t let this great opportunity slip from our grasp. But in order to guarantee it, in order to guarantee Israel’s borders, in order to guarantee the future of Israel, I need every Likud member this time around to go out and vote and get others out to vote. This time we’re getting everyone out of the house, we’re not leaving anyone behind,” Netanyahu said.
Political sources said that Netanyahu's new rhetoric indicates he is fully convinced the US administration will not allow him to annex before the elections.
The administration wants to see the results of the Israeli elections, and whether Netanyahu will ever remain prime minister.
The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation quoted Likud officials as saying that the party is still considering obtaining the government's approval of the entire US ‘deal of the century’, and not just annexing the settlements in the occupied West Bank before the Knesset elections.
This approach aims to end the US administration's opposition to the implementation of the annexation of the settlements before the elections without losing the US support, unnamed sources from the Likud told the Corporation.
The same sources believe the approval of the plan in its entirety will not be met with US opposition, because it also includes accepting the clause of establishing a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, adding that Netanyahu is discussing the matter with Washington.
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