An Israeli settlements leader is complaining the Trump administration is backtracking on plans to immediately annex West Bank settlements if Palestinians reject the peace plan negotiated between the United States and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
David Elhayani, chairman of the Yesha Council which oversees 150 settlements, told The Washington Post that presidential adviser Jared Kushner has not been honest with him. Kushner is President Donald Trump's son-in-law and has been tasked with leading the peace process.
"Kushner took a knife and put it in Netanyahu's back," Elhayani told the Post. "Kushner misled the prime minister. He misled everybody. He knew for a long time that Netanyahu wanted to declare sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea — he said it many times over the last year. Gentlemen just don't act this way."
Elhayani was part of the delegation who traveled to Washington last week with Netanyahu and his rival, Benny Gantz, in next month's election. Elhayani said Kushner's actions could end up costing Netanyahu re-election.
Shortly after the peace plan was announced at the White House on Jan. 28, Netanyahu said he would bring an annexation vote to his cabinet within days.
Elhayani told the Post that U.S. officials told him and other settlement leaders that if the Palestinians did not accept the offer within 48 hours Israel could declare sovereignty over 30% of the West Bank.
U.S. Ambassador David Friedman said the timing was all up to Israel, explaing, "If Israelis apply Israeli law to the settlements and territory allocated to Israel under the plan . . . then we will recognize Israeli sovereignty."
But Kushner then reportedly told officials to wait until after a new government is formed following the March 2 elections. Amb. Friedman then amended his earlier comments to say the plan would require coordination of the joint American-Israeli committee.
Netanyahu has since been accused of speaking too early based of pressure from settlement groups and his defense minister. He has since walked back his comments.
Gantz has said he plans to bring the proposal to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, for approval. Elhayani told the Post that move will likely fail. The Knesset favors settlements, he said, but also favors a Palestian state on 70% of the territory.
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