"Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false," said the White House spokesman Monday on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement that he was having talks with the Americans about applying Israeli sovereignty in the region.
"The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the President’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative," the White House spokesman added.
In response, the Prime Minister's Office clarified that Netanyahu "updated the Americans on the (annexation) initiatives being raised in the Knesset, and the Americans expressed their unequivocal position that they are committed to advancing President Trump's peace plan."
The PMO added that the prime minister did not present the United States with any specific annexation proposals, and that in any case the administration in Washington did not express its consent to it.
"The position of Prime Minister Netanyahu is that if the Palestinians persist in their refusal to negotiate for peace, Israel will present its own alternatives," the PMO said.
Earlier that day, Netanyahu told Likud members that he is guided by two principles on the matter: "Coordinating as much as possible with the Americans, with whom the relationship is a strategic asset to the State of Israel and to the settlement enterprise," and the legislation "must be a government initiative and not a private one, because this is a historic move."
Coalition heads decided on Sunday to postpone an upcoming vote at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on an annexation bill sponsored by Likud MK Yoav Kisch, with the official reason being the security events of the past weekend in northern Israel.
Kisch's proposal seeks to apply Israeli law, judicial system and sovereignty in all West Bank settlements. It is identical to a resolution unanimously adopted by the Likud Central Committee a month ago.
Members of the coalition have proposed quite a few annexation bills during the 20th Knesset's term: Kisch and Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich submitted a proposal to annex the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim; MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) and MK Miki Zohar (Likud) sought to annex Gush Etzion, the city of Ariel and the Jordan Valley; Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) tried to promote a bill proposal to annex Givat Ze'ev; MK Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli (Bayut Yehudi) proposed to repeal the Disengagement Law in the northern Samaria region.
All of these proposals were sidelined by the coalition, mostly to avoid censure from the international community.