No one in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office was surprised when US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The New York Times on June 6 about the possibility of Israel annexing some West Bank territories. As we recall, Friedman had said that “under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.” This statement aroused a giant storm throughout the Middle East and in Israel’s political space. It was interpreted as an American hint that the United States may recognize annexation of certain Israeli settlements in the West Bank, if and when Netanyahu declares such a course of action.
The ambassador’s statement did not take the prime minister's office by surprise. In fact, it seems that ever since President Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, almost no American moves or decisions really surprised the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. The prevailing assessment is that the opposite is true. “You can’t drive a wedge between Trump and Netanyahu,” one of Netanyahu’s associates told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “They are always on the same page, whether directly or, usually, via the ambassadors.” This close associate was referring to two ambassadors: Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and Friedman, the American ambassador to Jerusalem.