US Administration Names Panel for West Bank Annexation

16 Feb
11:11 PM

The US government has appointed members of a committee tasked with mapping out areas of the occupied West Bank that Israel plans to annex as part of President Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed “Deal of the Century.”

A senior Trump administration official told Israel Hayom daily that US ambassador to Israel David Friedman will lead the joint committee.

“Honored to serve on the Joint Committee,” tweeted Friedman Saturday. “Looking forward to getting started right away,” he said.

Other committee members will include Friedman’s senior adviser Aryeh Lightstone, and Scott Leith, a US National Security Council expert on Israel.

Israeli members will include tourism minister Yariv Levin and Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, PNN reports.

The committee was announced by Trump last month during the unveiling of his scheme, which would see Israel control swathes of the West Bank in violation of the fundamental rights of the Palestinians.

Trump said the joint committee would be formed to “convert the conceptual map into a more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.”

There is still no set timeline for when the committee will finish its work, but Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pressured by right-wing lawmakers in recent weeks to announce the immediate annexation of all settlements before Israelis head to the polls.

Three weeks ago, both Netanyahu and Friedman said that Israel would be able to do so before the election, and Netanyahu planned to turn the issue into the cornerstone of his re-election campaign.

Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who is believed to be the architect of the so-called “Vision for Peace,” has said the US administration and Israel had decided to wait until a team was formed to examine the maps, and that he hoped Israel would wait until after the election.

The committee, like the Trump-Kushner Plan itself, is being formed without Palestinian involvement or input. This is predictable for a U.S. administration containing a number of members who deny Palestinian existence or rights. These U.S. administration members include US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman; Friedman’s senior adviser Aryeh Lightstone; and Scott Leith, director of Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the National Security Council. All three are known as right-wing Zionists who are friends with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and believe in the divine right of Israel to take over as much Palestinian land as possible, while denying the rights and existence of the indigenous Palestinian population.

The US-Israel ‘sovereignty committee’ plans to draw a map of the areas that Israel will forcibly take over under the Trump-Kushner plan. Israel already controls 78% of historic Palestine, and the Trump-Kushner plan will force the Palestinians into tiny islands of their original land, while Israel takes over more of their land by military force.

The land they plan to annex includes much of the eastern West Bank, known as the ‘bread basket’ of Palestine, as it is one area that has significant water reservoirs in the extremely arid climate of the West Bank.

On January 28, Trump unveiled his plan negotiated with Israel but without Palestinians, as one side of any agreement, being involved in the process.

The U.S. administration has called this plan a ‘Vision for Peace’, but because of the content of the plan, which involves the forcible transfer of Palestinian people from their ancestral land, Palestinians have rejected it, saying it is akin to South African ‘apartheid’. Under apartheid, black South Africans were forced into townships and discriminated against by the whites-only government, until the system was dismantled in the late 1980s.

Palestinian leaders immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs in the dustbin of history.”

They view the deal as a colonial plan meant to unilaterally control Palestine in its entirety and remove Palestinians from their homeland.

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