Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett told settler leaders yesterday that the government is preparing for the annexation of occupied West Bank territory, reported the Jerusalem Post.
According to the site, Bennett met with the leadership yesterday "prior to his departure for Washington".
Bennett, whose ministry would play a key part in practical preparations for annexation, told settler leaders "that he supported the application of sovereignty now, irrespective of the US position, and that he would personally discuss the matter with the prime minister upon his return" from the US.
"Bennett also told the settler leaders that he had created a team to prepare his ministry for the application of sovereignty," the Jerusalem Post added.
Yossi Dagan, head of the settlers' so-called Samaria Regional Council, said he had also met separately with Bennett to affirm the need to move on annexation immediately.
Dagan sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday telling him, "we chose you Mr. Prime Minister, not [US President Donald] Trump and not even [US special envoy Jared] Kushner".
Meanwhile, in the Jordan Valley region of the occupied West Bank, the head of the settlers' Yesha Council, David Elhayani, "also demanded a sovereignty vote, or at the very least a vote on the application of sovereignty to the valley".
"After 53 years, the time has come to apply sovereignty," Elhayani said.
As explained by the Post, "settler leaders are pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ignore a White House directive not to apply Israeli sovereignty to West Bank settlements [i.e. annexation]" until after Israel's forthcoming 2 March elections.
"Netanyahu had initially said he would bring it to a cabinet vote, but has since held off. No cabinet meeting has been scheduled so far this week," the report added.