Israeli envoy: no action on West Bank until after peace plan

EDITH M. LEDERER
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Relatives of Palestinians held in Israeli jails hold their portraits during a protest to mark "Prisoners Day" in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, April 7, 2019.(AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Israel's U.N. ambassador said Wednesday he believes his government will take no action on annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank until after the Trump administration releases its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

Danny Danon told a group of reporters he thinks the U.S. will present the plan between May and the summer.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged in the final stretch of his campaign that he would annex the settlements if he was re-elected. He was asked Wednesday to form a government following his election victory.

Danon sidestepped a question on what Israel would gain from annexing the settlements, saying, "I don't think we will see any major action by our government before the peace plan will be presented."

He called the West Bank "disputed territory according to international law, but we acknowledge that the Palestinians will stay there and will live there." But, he added, "We don't hear recognition from the other side that there are Jews living there, and they should accept that."

He said Israel has no intention of annexing major Palestinian cities, including Nablus and Ramallah, but will focus on places where there are a majority of Jews.

Noting that new Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has already said the U.S. peace plan is "dead on arrival," Danon urged Palestinians and their supporters to be "open-minded" and study the plan.

"Hopefully, there will be a Palestinian leader, or leadership, that will look at the benefits for the Palestinian people," he said.

"The Palestinians for the last 71 years always said 'no' to everything," he said, starting with their rejection of the November 1947 United Nations plan to partition Palestine at the end of the British mandate into independent Arab and Jewish states.

"We believe at the end they will have to engage with Israel," Danon said. "They will have to recognize Israel, and they will have to live with Israelis. ... So the sooner they will acknowledge that, the better it will be for the Palestinians."

As for Netanyahu's election victory, Danon said it looks like the governing coalition likely to emerge under the prime minister "will be a very similar coalition" to the previous government he led.