When the Israeli Cabinet convened on Feb. 9, it was obvious to just about everybody in attendance that there would be no annexation of West Bank lands, no matter how small, until after the March 2 elections. At a campaign rally in Maale Adumim the evening before, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the United States and Israel were busy mapping out the area and that Israel will not be acting immediately to impose sovereignty on any part of it.
The morning of the Cabinet meeting, David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, provided additional clarity, tweeting, “Any unilateral action in advance of the completion of the committee process endangers the Plan & American recognition.” This statement came from the man who provided momentum to the long-standing aspiration of the right to impose Israeli sovereignty on at least part of the West Bank before the upcoming election. Now, he had deflated the right’s annexation balloon once and for all. That Friedman is popular among the settlers and acts as their lobbyist in the White House did not soften the blow. If anything, it put Netanyahu on the defensive.