US ambassador to Israel to lead committee on annexing the West Bank
US ambassador to Israel David Friedman will lead a joint US-Israel committee on annexing Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the US government confirmed on Sunday.
The committee was announced last month by US President Donald Trump in the wake of his much anticipated "deal of the century" to end the conflict in Israel-Palestine.
The annexations proposed, detailed in a map issued by the White House, would leave a disconnected archipelago of Palestinian controlled areas in the West Bank.
Trump said the new committee's goal would be to "convert the conceptual map" into a "more detailed and calibrated rendering so that recognition can be immediately achieved.”
According to Haaretz, the other members of the committee will include Friedman’s policy adviser Aryeh Lightstone, Scott Leith, a National Security Council expert on Israel, Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
Trump's proposals for the region give Israel a US green light to annex key parts of the West Bank, including in the strategic Jordan Valley.
The Arab League has rejected the Trump plan, saying it did not meet the "minimum rights" of the Palestinians.
The plan, seen as overwhelmingly supportive of Israeli goals, has been firmly rejected by the Palestinians and triggered protests in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including isolated clashes with Israeli forces.
Following the announcement of Trump's proposals, Friedman said Israel could annex the Jordan Valley immediately.
But Trump's advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the architect of the peace plan, has urged Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to hold back at least until after the country's elections, which are set for 2 March.
According to polls in the Israeli press, most Israelis are in favour of annexing the territory, where some 10,000 settlers and around 65,000 Palestinians live, according to Israeli rights group B'Tselem.
Around 450,000 Israeli settlers live in some 150 settlements across the West Bank, according to the government's latest figures.