Senior US Presidential aide Jared Kushner reportedly warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “greatly slow the process” of unilateral annexation of large parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, according to a report on Israel’s Channel 13 yesterday.
Kushner reportedly wanted to “downplay the enthusiasm” for annexation while the US struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak and faces nationwide protests over the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis.
Floyd, 46, died after then-police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, despite the victim repeatedly telling law enforcement he could not breathe. His death has sparked protests across the US, some of which have turned violent.
According to the Channel 13 report, Kushner called for a slowdown of annexation plans during a conference call with Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and White House special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz.
When US officials questioned Netanyahu over Israeli plans to begin annexation, they received no answer, the New Arab reported.
The call took place only the day after Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz ordered Aviv Kohavi, the Chief of Staff for the Israeli army, to “step up preparations” for government plans to begin annexation of illegal settlements in the West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley in July, according to the Times of Israel.
While Gantz reportedly opposes unilateral annexation, under the Israeli unity government agreement, Netanyahu can seek to start takeover plans from 1 July, following plans laid out in Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century’.
Trump’s Middle East plan greenlights Israeli annexation of approximately 30 per cent of the West Bank, including the strategic Jordan Valley and settlements widely considered illegal under international law.
The so-called ‘deal’, despite only being agreed between the US and Israel, seeks to establish an ostensibly contiguous Palestinian state in 70 to 80 per cent of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and pockets of land in southern Israel.
The plan has widely been rejected by the Palestinians and the wider Arab community, including the Arab league.