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Israeli Leaders, US Ambassador Meet to Discuss Annexation

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz on Sunday met with US Ambassador David Friedman to discuss the Jewish state’s prospective annexation of parts of the West Bank in accordance with the Trump Administration’s Middle East peace plan. It comes amid growing international opposition to the move and as Washington appears to have put the brakes on Netanyahu’s stated goal of applying sovereignty over about 30% of the Palestinian-claimed territory on July 1. The Israeli leader seems to have likewise walked back repeated vows to proceed full steam ahead with the initiative, with recent reports suggesting that his government will instead initially focus on annexing only three large settlement blocs. There is a consensus across a broad political spectrum in Israel that the areas in question – Maaleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and Ariel – would always be formally incorporated into Israel even in the event of a peace deal with the Palestinians. All of this comes on the backdrop of reports that the United Arab Emirates has warned the White House that any Israeli annexations would result in reduced support for the US peace proposal and mark the end of a yearslong rapprochement between Gulf states and Israel that might otherwise include the signing of nonaggression pacts. Abu Dhabi’s ambassador to the US over the weekend published an unprecedented op-ed in one of Israel’s leading newspapers calling on Jerusalem to refrain from implementing the controversial project.