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Senior US official: Trump concerned about Greater Jerusalem bill

Abbas and Trump

Abbas and Trump Reuters

The Trump administration is concerned that a proposal to annex 19 towns in Judea and Samaria to Jerusalem would derail planned Middle East peace talks, a senior Washington official told Channel 10 Sunday evening.

On Saturday night, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that he was delaying discussion of the “Greater Jerusalem Law”, which had been planned for the weekly meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

The bill, which was proposed by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud), would annex 19 cities and towns in Judea and Samaria to the capital, adding some 150,000 Jews to Jerusalem’s population.

The communities slated for annexation under the bill, including the cities of Maaleh Adumim and Beitar Illit, would retain a level of administrative autonomy, and would not be explicitly annexed to the state of Israel, though they would be made a part of the city of Jerusalem, which itself has been under full Israeli sovereignty since 1967.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu explained his decision to delay discussion of the bill within the coalition, arguing that it was important to ‘coordinate’ major changes in Judea and Samaria with the Trump administration.

"We are in contact with the Americans; the Americans turned to us seeking to understand the essence of the Law. As we have cooperated with them so far, it is worthwhile talking with them and coordinating them. We are working to promote and develop settlement rather than to promote other considerations," Netanyahu said.

After Netanyahu’s comments, a senior Washington official told Channel 10 that the Trump administration was unlikely to support such a bill.

"I think it's fair to say that the US is discouraging actions that it believes will unduly distract the principals from focusing on the advancement of peace negotiations," the official said on condition of anonymity.

"The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions."

Prime Minister Netanyahu recently met with special White House envoy Jason Greenblatt to discuss the “Greater Jerusalem Law”, among other things.

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