The U.S. ambassador to Israel, a staunch supporter of the settlement project, appeared to stall Sunday on the issue of Israeli annexation of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. apparently directly contradicting the prime minister's claims that Israel has already kicked off the controversial process
According to President Donald Trump's recently unveiled Middle East peace place Israel is allowed to annex all existing Jewish settlements in the disputed territories, while the Palestinians will in the future receive land in Israel's Negev Desert.
"As we have stated, the application of Israeli law to the territory which the plan provides to be part of Israel is subject to the completion a mapping process by a joint Israeli-American committee," wrote David Friedman on his Twitter account. "Any unilateral action in advance of the completion of the committee process endangers the plan and American recognition."
The remarks come just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau said that Israel began mapping the area ahead of the annexation. "We are already at the height of the process of mapping the area that, according to the Trump plan, will become part of the State of Israel. It won't take too long."
Netanyahu said the area would include all Israeli settlements and of the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.
Prospects for annexations, which have already been widely condemned, are unclear. Friedman's latest comments suggest the U.S. officials directly involved with the peace initiative appear to be backtracking on a rush toward annexation.
In the remarks made by Friedman shortly after Trump's peace plan rollout, the ambassador said that Israel can "annex settlements at any time."
Friedman, a staunch supporter of the settlements, told reporters at the White House two weeks ago that "Israel should not wait at all for annexation of the settlements."
A senior presidential adviser and chief architect of the peace plan, Jared Kushner, also cast doubt on the immediate viability of annexation. "I don't believe this is going to happen this weekend, at least not as far as I know," Kushner told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Following the release of the Mideast initiative, which the Palestinians say favors Israel and was largely rejected by the Arab world, the tensions in the region have soared.
Several Palestinians have been killed in clashes with the IDF forces in the West Bank over the past few days. In addition, a number of Israeli security officials have been hurt in attacks perpetrated by Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.