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As Israeli annexation looms, US remains undecided

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A demonstrator holds a placard against US President Donald Trump during a rally against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, in Jericho on June 22, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

Israel is getting ready to implement its highly controversial scheme to annex parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, but the US remains undecided on whether to support the move. At the same time, Gaza-based resistance groups say they are preparing a response to the illegal land grab bid.

Israel's new coalition, led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has set July 1 as the date to begin moving forward with the plan to impose its “sovereignty” over about a third of the West Bank, including settlements and the fertile Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu has been looking for formal US support before proceeding with the annexation.

US undecided

A senior White House official told NBC News that American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, White House Special Envoy Avi Berkowitz and mapping expert Scott Leigh held several days of meetings in Washington that also involved Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser. 

He said the discussions were “productive” but inconclusive, alluding to concerns about how the Israeli annexation could affect Trump’s self-proclaimed "deal of the century,” which was unveiled in January with the aim of legitimizing Israel’s occupation.

The US envoys then traveled to the occupied territories for further meetings and analysis of the Israeli scheme, he added. “There is yet no final decision on next steps for implementing the Trump plan."

Palestinians refuse talks

On Saturday, Israel's Kan public broadcaster reported that CIA representatives met this week in the West Bank city of Ramallah with Palestinian officials in a bid to convince them to open a dialogue with the White House about Trump’s Middle East plan, but the efforts were unsuccessful.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to receive a phone call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to the report.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), it added, has informed US and European officials of its plans to gather weapons from its security forces and turn them over to the Israeli military in order to force the Tel Aviv regime to take over security in Palestinian-controlled areas.

PA urges Gantz to suspend annexation

Additionally on Saturday, Hussein al-Sheikh, the head of the PA's General Authority of Civil Affairs, called on Israeli minister of military affairs Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's coalition partner, to end the occupation and halt the West Bank annexation before demanding dialog with the Palestinians.

“Gantz must think of ending the occupation instead of mobilizing his army to annex [the West Bank] and consolidate the occupation,” he tweeted.

It came a few days after Gantz expressed his readiness to directly negotiate with Abbas.

Gaza resistance groups prepare response

The Gaza-based Hamas and Islamic Jihad resistance groups announced that they have agreed to work together against the West Bank annexation, the Al Resalah news site reported.

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources said the commanders of the armed wings of various resistance factions in the besieged Gaza Strip had received orders to respond to the Israeli plan and “overturn the table in the face of the occupation,” if the regime claims "sovereignty" over the West Bank.

“All the military units on the ground are ready to respond to this plan,” they told the al-Quds Palestinian daily.

“There is great coordination between the factions to devise a plan for responding to the plan, and the Joint Operations Room [of the armed groups] is continuing to hold contacts in this regard.”

Separately, Israeli media reported that the regime's army is making preparations for suppressing possible anti-annexation protests.

UN tries to convene Mideast Quratet meeting

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced that the world body is unable to convene the Middle East Quartet to discuss the Israeli annexation bid,  the Quds Press reported.

“I am working with the Coordinator [for the Middle East Peace Process] Nickolay Mladenov to create an appropriate atmosphere to convene the quartet without preconditions,” Guterres told a virtual press conference held at the UN Headquarters in New York.

“Currently, we are unable to create this atmosphere. However, we believe that dialogue is the only way to go ahead in this matter,” he pointed out, renewing his call on Israel to relinquish its annexation plan.

Meanwhile, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni described the Israeli scheme as a “huge historic mistake."

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