Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman study a map on February 24 as a joint panel begins studying possible parameters for annexations in the West Bank. (David Azagury/US Embassy Jerusalem)

US-Israeli Committee Begins Mapping Out West Bank Territory for Annexation

Three US officials on a six-member joint committee tasked with mapping out areas in the West Bank that the Trump Administration envisions as being annexed by the Jewish state met on Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. It was the first time the committee convened since its establishment on January 28 during the US peace proposal’s roll-out at the White House. “The mapping is underway to prepare for extending [Israeli] sovereignty to these territories,” Netanyahu said at the meeting, which, notably, took place in the large West Bank settlement of Ariel. While it is unknown exactly how long the process will take, Netanyahu has vowed to immediately annex whatever regions are eventually agreed on. These will almost certainly include the entire strategic Jordan Valley – which Israel views as its future security border to the east – in addition to most, if not all, Jewish settlements. The White House has committed to conferring recognition on these areas so long as the annexations occur after Israel’s upcoming March 2 national election. The American members of the committee are Ambassador to Israel David Friedman; his adviser, Aryeh Lightstone; and C. Scott Leith, a specialist on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who sits on the US National Security Council. Joining Netanyahu on the Israeli side were Tourism and Immigration Minister Yariv Levin and Acting Director of the Prime Minister’s Office Ronen Peretz. The Palestinians have rejected the US peace plan, which calls for the establishment of their own state on lands encompassing 70% of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and some small Israeli border enclaves to be given up in trade, including two along the border with the Sinai Peninsula.

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