White House denies it discussed 'Sovereignty Law' with Israel

Spokesman for Jared Kushner denies White House discussed Sovereignty Law with Israel - but Netanyahu insists talks took place.

David Rosenberg ,

Kushner leaving White House's West Wing
Kushner leaving White House's West Wing

A White House spokesman denied claims Monday that the Trump administration is holding talks with Israeli senior officials regarding a proposed Israeli law which would enable the government to apply sovereignty to Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria.

Josh Raffel, a White House spokesman associated with President Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, explicitly denied the claim put forth by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he had discussed the “Sovereignty Law” with the Trump administration.

"Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false," Raffel said.

"The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president's focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative."

Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu told Likud party members at a faction meeting that he had discussed proposed legislation that would establish a framework for the application of Israeli sovereignty over Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria.

“With regards to the Sovereignty Law, I can tell you that for a while now I’ve been discussing the issue with the Americans,” Netanyahu said Monday.

It is crucial, Netanyahu continued, “to coordinate with the Americans as much as possible, since our ties with them are a strategic investment for both the State of Israel and the settlement enterprise. [Sovereignty] needs to be a government program, not a private effort, because this is a historic change.”

Despite the denial by Raffel, however, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement Monday evening reaffirming Netanyahu’s claim.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu updated the Americans on the initiatives being raised in the Knesset, and the Americans expressed their unequivocal position that they are committed to advancing President Trump's peace plan,” the statement reads.

Senior Palestinian Authority diplomat and spokesperson Saeb Erekat slammed the Sovereignty Law Monday, calling it “land theft”. Citing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement, Erekat accused the US of “complicity with Israeli colonial plans”.

The bill in question, which was drafted by Land of Israel Lobby Chairman Yoav Kish (Likud), would not extend Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, but would establish what he called the “legislative mechanism” to apply sovereignty over Israeli towns in the future.

“This bill will allow cabinet ministers to set up a timetable [for the application of sovereignty],” said Kish. “It is the legislative mechanism will enable the application of [Israeli] sovereignty onto land in Judea and Samaria considered vitally important to the State of Israel.”