Israeli Cabinet debate on West Bank annexation called off

JERUSALEM – An Israeli Cabinet meeting on Sunday (Feb 2) during which officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would seek approval to annex parts of the occupied West Bank has been scrapped, his office said.

After US President Donald Trump unveiled his controversial peace plan on Tuesday, questions surfaced on whether Israel would immediately seek to annex parts of the West Bank.

Later, unnamed Israeli officials said Netanyahu would convene a Cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss that issue and seek approval to annex settlements and territory that would become part of Israel under the plan.

But on Saturday an official at his office told AFP there would be no Sunday meeting, declining to comment further.

On Friday, Britain cautioned Israel against quickly seizing parts of the West Bank.

“Any such unilateral moves would be damaging to renewed efforts to re-start peace negotiations, and contrary to international law,” the UK foreign office said in a statement.

“Any changes to the status quo cannot be taken forward without an agreement negotiated by the parties themselves.”

Trump’s proposal gives the Jewish state a US green light to annex key parts of the West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley.

The Arab League on Saturday rejected the Trump plan, saying it did not meet the “minimum rights” of the Palestinians.

The plan, seen as overwhelmingly supportive of Israeli goals, has been firmly rejected by the Palestinians and triggered protests in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including isolated clashes with Israeli forces.

The Israeli army said on Saturday that Palestinians in Gaza fired an unspecified “projectile” into Israel at night, the latest in a series of rocket and mortar fire since Wednesday, a day after Trump unveiled his plan.

There were no reported injuries.

Israeli warplanes hit Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas on Saturday morning after several rounds of cross-border fire by Palestinian militants on Friday.

“Among the targets were weapon storage facilities and an underground infrastructure used by the Hamas terror organisation,” an English-language army statement said.

After Trump unveiled his long-awaited plan alongside Netanyahu in Washington on Tuesday, his ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the Jewish state “does not have to wait at all” to begin its implementation.

But Jared Kushner – Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, who spearheaded the Middle East initiative – said that Washington does not want any moves made before Israel’s March 2 election.

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