U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is urging Israel not to rush into plans to annex parts of the West Bank – a move that opponents say would destroy the chances for lasting peace.
Pompeo was in Israel on Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking to the Israel Hayom newspaper, Pompeo said he told Israeli leaders to “consider all factors” in their annexation plans and the “many other issues related to it – how to deal with all the factors involved, and how to make sure the move is done properly to bring about an outcome in accordance with the vision of peace.”
Israel wants to annex about 30% of the West Bank. It seized the territory in the 1967 Six-Day War and has occupied it ever since.
The Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state. The European Union is among those who say an Israeli annexation, which would include the Jewish settlements, would not only wreck the chances of negotiating a lasting peace, it would also light the fuse of even more violence.
A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jerusalem said last week that the U.S. backs Israel’s annexation plan, but only as part of the Middle East peace plan that President Donald Trump unveiled in January.
That plans calls for an eventual Palestinian state in part of the West Bank.
Netanyahu said the new coalition government that will take power Thursday is “an opportunity to promote peace and security, based on the understandings I reached with the president on my last visit to Washington, in January."
Under the unity deal, Netanyahu will remain prime minister, and opposition leader Benny Gantz will be the “alternate prime minister” for the next 18 months before they switch roles.
Pompeo and Netanyahu also discussed efforts to fight the coronavirus and what the prime minister called another “plague in our region: Iranian aggression and terrorism.”
Netanyahu said he wanted to thank the U.S. for pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and keeping up the sanctions.