The majority of the House Republican caucus signed onto a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday backing any decision he makes on annexing the West Bank “independent of outside pressure,” even as Donald Trump administration officials convene this week to decide whether they should give Israel the greenlight to proceed in July.
“We are aware of and deeply concerned by threats being expressed by some to retaliate against Israel as it makes decisions to ensure defensible borders,” wrote 116 House Republicans led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. “It is shortsighted to threaten relations with Israel, a long-time friend and critical ally that shares our democratic values.”
They go on to reiterate support for Trump’s peace plan, which endorses the annexation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the entire Jordan Valley, while vowing to “stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel and oppose any effort to apply pressure.”
Why it matters: The letter, a lobbying priority for the Republican Jewish Coalition, comes after a slew of pro-Israel Democrats have warned Netanyahu against annexation. And although the White House laid the groundwork for annexation in his January peace plan, the Trump administration has grown warier of Netanyahu’s July target date in recent months. Trump himself may attend meetings this week on the issue with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US envoy to Israel David Friedman, presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Israeli-Palestinian peace envoy Avi Berkowitz.
The Trump administration has asked Netanyahu to obtain support from his rival coalition partner Defense Minister Benny Gantz before pursuing annexation. Gantz in turn says he will not throw his weight behind annexation without support from Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who staunchly opposes the plan.
What’s next: Netanyahu is reportedly pushing for an early annexation date in case former Vice President Joe Biden succeeds in ousting Trump from the White House in November. Biden has warned Israel against annexation but has also resisted the push from progressive groups to use military aid as leverage.