13:42 GMT29 March 2020
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    After announcing Israel would be able to "immediately" extend its sovereignty over vast areas of the West Bank, the US seems to be dragging its feet, warning against taking unilateral steps before the elections. But an Israeli lawyer refutes allegations that Washington backtracked from the plan, saying the sides should draw up detailed maps first.

    Two weeks ago, the US administration rocked the boat when it revealed its 'deal of the century' plan, aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    The initiative stipulated that the Jewish state would be able to "immediately" bite off big chunks of the West Bank - including the Jordan Valley, which makes some 30 percent of the area - in exchange for vast areas that would be given to the Palestinians in the Negev desert.

    However, weeks have gone by without the dramatic announcement being made, with Israel's media speculating that the Americans had decided to backtrack on the agreement.

    First it was President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner who stated that Israel should wait with the extension of its sovereignty until after the general elections. Then it was the turn of the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman,, who expressed his doubts, saying that any unilateral decision to annex the West Bank would endanger Washington's peace plan.

    Not Dragging Their Feet

    However, Marc Zell, the vice president of Republicans Overseas and a person considered to be close to the Trump administration, says the US is not dragging its feet.

    "The plan contemplates that the extension of Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish areas should take place without any delay...but before any proclamations are made, the teams should first work out some technical details and that means drawing maps".

    The 181-page-long peace deal proposal featured a number of maps showing territorial swaps between Israelis and the Palestinians, but Zell claims they were insufficient for such a complex operation.

    "The maps that have been included are not of high resolution. You can't implement sovereignty without detailed maps. Everyone knows that".

    Political Drama Bogs Down Progress

    But technical difficulties are far from being the only reason for the stalled takeover process. 

    "For Israel to extend its sovereignty, there should be legislation but the probability that a law will be passed before the elections is close to zero," explained Zell.

    According to Israeli law, any legislation should pass three readings in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, gaining more than 60 votes in favour of the bill. But with Israel being paralysed by political instability, and with the country going to elections for the third time in less than a year, the chance that major Israeli factions will agree on such an important issue as the annexation of land are slim.

    The left-wing parties as well as the Joint Arab list have already expressed their objection to taking any unilateral steps. 

    The Blue and White party, considered Israel's biggest faction, whose votes might determine whether the legislation will pass, supported the proposed peace plan but indicated that its implementation would only be possible after the country's elections.

    The right-wing bloc has its concerns too. While the ultra religious parties are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go ahead with the annexation, others, including the premier himself, seem to be wary of going forward with the plan.

    In his interview to Sputnik following Washington's peace deal announcement, Yossi Beilin, the former chief negotiator of the Oslo Accords, that inked relations between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993, said Netanyahy didn't take the American initiative seriously, adding that the central committee of Likud will never be ready to accept the idea of a two-state solution.

    According to Beilin, the US announcement was only useful to distract the public's attention from the US and Israeli leaders' legal problems, an allegations refuted by Zell.

    "One of the reasons why this plan was released now was because Washington was fed up with Israel's political process and the fact that no major party was able to win the elections. I spoke to the Trump administration from the very first days of its establishment, in January 2017. Back then they already had a very clear idea of where they wanted to go with this. This was way before Netanyahu and Trump's legal battles," said Zell adding that the left is exploiting the situation for its political gains and that the ball is now in Israeli public court.

    "Everything is now in the hands of the people of Israel. They need to decide what they want to do here and whether they want to have the same stalemate that has paralysed Israel for the past year."

    Washington's deal of the century peace plan, rolled out in the end of January, indicated that Jerusalem would remain Israel's undivided capital. It also presupposed major land swaps and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state under the condition that the Palestinians lay down arms, give up on the use of violence and recognise Israel - demands that Ramallah rejected.

    Related:

    'Deal of the Century': Trump's Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan
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    United States, West Bank, peace deal, Israel
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