During the Trump administration, the United States has shown unprecedented support for Israeli annexation of sections of the West Bank with large Jewish populations. Since President Trump announced his Mideast peace plan on Jan. 28, which stated that Israel would “eventually” be able to acquire large portions of the West Bank, many have been left with one key question: when? When the plan was released, Trump suggested that Israel could annex the land immediately, but other American officials were quick to suggest that Israel not move forward with annexation prior to the March 2 Israeli elections.
This timing is integral, as the annexation of these colonies was a campaign promise of current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is up for reelection on the 2nd. Netanyahu is lobbying Washington in the hope of moving forward with annexation before then because his administration believes that Netanyahu’s reelection prospects rest in no small part on this promise.
Despite this sentiment, however, it is not clear that the majority of members of Netanyahu’s own Likud party support the Trump Mideast plan. While the plan would allow Israel to annex about 30 percent of the West Bank, including all existing Israeli settlements and the crucial Jordan Valley region, it also calls for the eventual formation of an official Palestinian state, which the Likud party fundamentally opposes. David Alhayani, a supporter of Netanyahu and chairman of the Yesha Council, the top settler leadership organization, expressed that although he wants this annexation to occur as soon as possible, he is adamantly opposed to a Palestinian state: “I told him, ‘Prime Minister Netanyahu, a plan that will bring a Palestinian state—you have to take the plan and throw it in the garbage.’”
After the announcement of Trump’s Mideast plan, President Trump stated that United States and Israeli officials would map out the regions to be annexed so that Israel could begin this process as soon as possible. United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman echoed this sentiment, leading to a tweet from Netanyahu’s spokesman stating that the annexation would be brought to a vote in the Israeli Cabinet as soon as possible. The spokesman removed the tweet after presidential adviser Jared Kushner made a conflicting statement in an interview, saying that Israel is expected to wait until the mapping process and the March elections are completed.
Kushner hopes to gain support for the annexation from Middle Eastern nations and may believe that immediate annexation would make that goal impossible. Alhayani, however, accused Kushner of sabotaging Netanyahu’s reelection effort by holding back annexation. Another factor in this decision is the election itself is whether or not Netanyahu’s opponent Benny Gantz is elected. In this case, the Trump administration would likely rather redesign its Mideast plan to align with Gantz’s desire to not rush the annexation process rather than be stuck the previous Mideast plan, which would put them at odds with the new Israeli administration. The annexation question is one that has been around for decades but may soon be nearing its conclusion. But for now, exactly when it might be completed is still very much up in the air.