Pompeo: It Is Up to Israel to Decide on Annexation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a news conference in Washington, Wednesday. (Mangel Ngan/Pool via Reuters)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that it is up to Israel to make its own decisions on whether to annex parts of Yehudah and Shomron, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has vowed to do next month.

Speaking to reporters, Pompeo said extending Israeli sovereignty was a decision “for Israelis to make.”

With Netanyahu’s July 1 deadline approaching, senior aides to President Donald Trump began discussions on Tuesday on whether to give Netanyahu the green light for annexation, which has drawn condemnation from the Palestinians and U.S. Arab allies.

The White House meeting on Tuesday included Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, national security adviser Robert O’Brien, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, a U.S. official said.

Trump, whose support Netanyahu is counting on for a move that has drawn condemnation from the Palestinians and U.S. Arab allies, did not participate, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But U.S. sources have said he could join in later as this week’s deliberations continue.

Under Trump’s Middle East peace proposal unveiled in January, it is envisaged that the United States would recognize the Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron as part of Israel.

The officials on Tuesday held what one source called “informal internal discussions.” No decisions were reached at the meeting, which Kushner attended before leaving with Trump on a trip to Arizona, the U.S. official said.