Israel's Netanyahu discussing annexing settlements with US: Spokesman

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem on Feb 11, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday (Feb 12) he has been discussing legislation with the United States that would effectively annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, a spokesman said.

"Regarding the issue of applying sovereignty, I can tell you that I have for some time been speaking with the Americans about it," Netanyahu told lawmakers from his Likud party, according to comments relayed by a spokesman.

The move would severely harm remaining prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu said he wanted to coordinate any such move with the United States because of the country's strategic importance to Israel. The comments come as Netanyahu is under pressure from right-wing politicians to move ahead with legislation that would apply Israeli sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank.

Two lawmakers, including one from Netanyahu's party, have proposed legislation to apply Israeli sovereignty to settlements across the West Bank. Netanyahu blocked it from being advanced on Sunday, with officials citing the need to focus on security issues following a confrontation that led to Israeli air strikes in Syria at the weekend.

Unilateral annexation of settlements would be sure to draw international outrage, though Netanyahu's government has been bolstered by the unstinting support of US President Donald Trump.

Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December in a move praised by Netanyahu as "historic," but denounced by the Palestinians and most of the rest of the world.

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