WASHINGTON - US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is expected to travel to Washington next week, The Jerusalem Post has confirmed. Friedman will meet with his peers on the US peace team to discuss with Jared Kushner and Avi Berkowitz how to move forward with the Israeli plan to annex parts of the West Bank as early as July 1. Haaretz first reported on Friedman's upcoming trip.
Berkowitz, the special representative for international negotiations, is expected to travel back to Israel with Friedman to further discuss the details with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz – a person familiar with the travel plan told the Post. Berkowitz was set to arrive in Israel last week but canceled his trip. The White House still hopes to see the two Israeli leaders decide together over which settlements Israel should apply its sovereignty. The peace team will also discuss what to do in case that Gantz and Netanyahu could not find common ground.
Meanwhile, House Democrats are increasing their efforts against the move. As of Friday afternoon, 158 Democrat members have signed the letter calling Israel to avoid applying its sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, a congressional staffer told the Post. In their letter, the members of Congress expressed “deep concern” with the plan, and urged the Israeli government “to reconsider plans to do so.”
The Congressional staffer told the Post that by next week, they expect an overwhelming majority of the House Democrats to sign the letter. “The letter shows where our caucus stands, from moderate to progressive members,” they said. “It also demonstrates the support to keep the relationship with Israel on a bipartisan basis, as the party had supported it over the years.
“Our fear is that unilateral actions, taken by either side, will push the parties further from negotiations and the possibility of a final, negotiated agreement,” the letter reads. It was first published at JTA.
According to the letter, Drafted by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL) and David Price (D-NC), “unilateral annexation would likely jeopardize Israel’s significant progress on normalization with Arab states at a time when closer cooperation can contribute to countering shared threats.”
Senate Democrats have cautioned against annexation as well on Friday. Minority leader Chuck Schumer, and Senators Ben Cardin and Bob Menendez, told the Jewish Insider that they are joining the opposition to Israel’s plan. The three are considered pro-Israel Democrats, and they avoided signing a different letter that was circulating in the Senate a couple of weeks ago. “As strong and dedicated supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship, we are compelled to express opposition to the proposed unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank,” they said in a statement.