The US will push back against any Israeli attempts to annex parts of the West Bank, US Ambassador Tom Nides warned as the Religious Zionist Party has demanded steps in that direction in coalition talks.
“Our position is quite clear: We do not support annexation,” Nides told KAN Bet. “We will fight any attempt to do so, which is by the way the position of most of the Arab countries.”
“Our position is quite clear: We do not support annexation. We will fight any attempt to do so, which is by the way the position of most of the Arab countries.”US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides
Nides’s comments come as Religious Zionist Party leader Bezalel Smotrich demanded that Israeli settlements be governed by the relevant ministries, rather than the IDF’s Civil Administration, as part of the next coalition agreement.
Moving the authority over settlements from the military to the regular government would be akin to extending Israel’s sovereignty to those parts of the West Bank, a step towards annexation.
As for reports that the Biden administration plans to snub Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right Religious Zionist MK likely to become a minister in the next Israeli cabinet, Nides said: “I’m not going to make draconian statements that I’m not going to talk to anyone Left or Right.
“We’ll see who gets into which positions and what positions they take,” the ambassador said. “We want to see, rhetorically, what they say and how they act… At this point, the government isn’t even formed… Then, we’ll determine what conversations can take place.”
Nides said he wants to have a strong and close relationship with the new government and presumptive prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This is a country that is a democracy, that elected its government and I intend to work with them,” Nides stated.
However, the ambassador added, the US will “stand up for the things that we believe in...We are a very, very strong ally to the State of Israel but there are times where we will articulate what we believe and what our differences are.”
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said he had yet to hear concerns about Ben-Gvir from foreign diplomats and officials.
“Even if I will encounter [concerns], I think that people who believe in democracy understand that we need to respect the democratic process,” Erdan told Army Radio. “Here in the US, you know, there are a lot of stances that some of the people here view as extreme, but they don't stop supporting America because these stances are expected by large segments of the population.”
“I expect the same, whether from US Jewry or countries around the world, to look at the democratic process in the State of Israel,” Erdan stated.
Allenby Crossing 'good for Palestinians'
Nides also praised the Israeli pilot to open the Allenby Border Crossing 24 hours a day, saying that it’s “good for the Palestinian people and it’s good for the Israelis.”
He expressed hope that the next government will continue to advance projects to help the Palestinians’ quality of life, such as allowing 4G Internet.
The Allenby Crossing between Israel and Jordan opened to passenger traffic 24 hours a day on Sunday morning and will continue until Friday afternoon on a pilot program that is a step towards fulfilling a promise the Israeli government made to US President Joe Biden during his visit to Israel in July.
Israel repeatedly postponed the date on which it would open the Allenby crossing allowing West Bank Palestinians to travel abroad through Jordan, which was set for September, then pushed off until after the Jewish holidays to mid-October.
Most Palestinians in the West Bank are barred from traveling abroad through Ben-Gurion Airport. They exit the West Bank through the Allenby Crossing and fly abroad from the airport in Amman.
The crossing was previously open from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.