The US Secretary of State is in Israel on Wednesday to meet Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the duo who is now head of the Hebrew state. On the agenda for discussions: annexation and Iran.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Wednesday, May 13, to discuss plans to connect parts of the occupied West Bank to the new Israeli government. It was his first trip abroad in almost two months.
In addition to this sensitive issue, Mike Pompeo must discuss Iran, the highest enemy in the Hebrew state, suspected of having multiplied the strikes against Iranian positions in neighboring Syria in recent weeks.
The Secretary of State landed in the morning at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv and got out of the aircraft with a blue, white and red health mask, the colors of the American flag, before taking the Road to Jerusalem, where he will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former electoral candidate Benny Gantz.
However, in a “preventative” manner, Mike Pompeo will not be able to meet his ambassador David Friedman on Wednesday as the latter is experiencing “respiratory symptoms”, although he has been tested negative for Covid-19, a source said. spokesman for the embassy.
What future for the American peace plan?
After 17 months of a political saga punctuated by turns and three elections, the unity government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz will be sworn in on Thursday before the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem.
Their power-sharing agreement states that July 1 will be revealed by a strategy to implement the US project, which was presented in Washington in the United States by US President Donald Trump in order to block the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Pompeo’s visit to Israel: “Everything Trump does in Israel is based on his internal political needs”
The plan is to make Jerusalem the “indivisible” capital of the “Jewish state” of Israel and the annexation of the Jordan Valley and the more than 130 Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank. The plan also provides for the creation of a Palestinian state in reduced territory.
However, the question of the future of this plan, which the Palestinians have rejected in unison, arises. “The decision will be made by Israel and I want to know what the new government thinks about it,” Mike Pompeo said in an interview with the Daily Israel Hayom published on Tuesday.
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“The United States is a stakeholder in this plan,” retorted Palestinian chief negotiator Saëb Erakat, who told AFP that Washington had not contacted them to prepare for the visit.
“In our various exchanges, international leaders have made it clear to us that annexation poses a threat not only to Middle East peace but to the entire international system,” he added.
More than 450,000 residents of Israeli settlements on the West Bank
Over the past decade, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the population of Israeli settlements on the West Bank has jumped 50% to more than 450,000, often living under stress with more than 2.7 million Palestinians.
The opening of the US Secretary of State killed an Israeli soldier by stone-throwing a Palestinian on the sidelines for an armed operation in a village in the northern part of the West Bank, territory occupied since 1967 by Israel. On Wednesday morning, a Palestinian teenager was killed by the Israeli army in clashes in the southern West Bank, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
If Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to apply Israel’s “sovereignty” over settlements and the Jordan Valley, a strip that spans nearly 30% of the West Bank, he now has a strategic window of about four months, between July 1 and the US presidential election in November.
When Mike Pompeo assures that all decisions would be solely Israeli, his comments are “incorrect” because “the Trump administration really wants the annexation to be realized,” insists Daniel Shapiro, former US ambassador to Israel under Barack Obama.
Domestic political issue for Donald Trump
The issue of settlements is also a matter of domestic politics in the United States, where evangelical movements, supporters of Republicans by Donald Trump, are steadily defending the project for a “Greater Israel” including within its borders territories on the West Bank.
“The Trump administration is probably a little concerned about the exact limits, but is seeking an achievement (…) to present to Donald Trump’s evangelical base and right-wing Jewish voters to galvanize them for the November election,” assures AFP Daniel Shapiro .
Surveys in Israel suggest high support for the annexation among right but not central and left voters, trends represented in the unity government, including by Benny Gantz, who expressed doubts about a quick annex.
In this context, Israeli analysts expect limited action by the union government, such as the linking of settlements near Jerusalem to Israel, unless, according to Daniel Shapiro, he passes by to wait for the name of the next tenant in the White House.