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Netanyahu talking to Trump administration about annexing West Bank settlements

Netanyahu talking to Trump administration about annexing West Bank settlements
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he has been maintaining contact with U.S. officials about expanding Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank, according to multiple reports, which is home to millions of Palestinians.

"I can say that I have been talking to the Americans about it for some time,” Netanyahu told a meeting of the Likud political party, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“Two principles have been guiding me: communicating to the Americans that our connection with them is a strategic asset for Israel but also for the settlements,” Netanyahu added, according to Haaretz.

“This needs to be a government initiative and not a private one, as this is a historic move,” he said. 

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An Israeli official later stressed Netanyahu didn’t present the U.S. with a specific annexation proposal for the territories, but did provide information on legislative initiatives, Haaretz noted.

Saeb Erekat, a leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, in a statement Monday called Netanyahu’s comments “a continuation of Israel’s policy of dictations” and accused the U.S. of being complicit with “Israeli colonial plans.”

“Let us be clear, we haven’t mandated the US administration or any other party negotiate on our behalf, and we are not going to allow this attempt to succeed,” Erekat said. 

The Trump administration has vowed to push for a peace solution between Israel and the Palestinians. That effort was complicated last year, when President TrumpDonald John TrumpTillerson: Russia already looking to interfere in 2018 midterms Dems pick up deep-red legislative seat in Missouri Speier on Trump's desire for military parade: 'We have a Napoleon in the making' MORE recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and said the U.S. would move its embassy there from Tel Aviv. 

That facility is scheduled to open before the end of 2019.

While Israel praised the Trump administration’s move, most European and Arab nations warned the decision would undermine peace negotiations. Protests broke out in the West Bank following the announcement.

Netanyahu blocked the advance of a bill on Sunday that would have applied Israeli sovereignty to the settlements in the West Bank.