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Israel to postpone controversial 'annexation' bill

31 October 2017

An official close to Israel's prime minister says a vote to link West Bank settlements to Jerusalem is stalled due to US concerns.

He added: "The Jerusalem expansion bill was considered by the administration to be one of those actions".

The bill, proposed by a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, was to have been submitted for approval yesterday to a ministerial committee on legislation, a first step before a series of ratification votes in parliament. David Bitan, chairman of Netanyahu's governing coalition, told Israel's army radio on Sunday that "there's American pressure that says that it's a case of annexation".

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Turnbull was slated to arrive in the Jewish state last week, but had his trip cut two days short after Australia's High Court last Friday found the country's Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and four other politicians had been wrongly elected due to their holding of dual citizenship. Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, a supporter of the bill, has said this would "ensure a Jewish majority in a united Jerusalem".

He said it will take time to clarify the bill to the U.S. "They did not meet to discuss the annexation bill". Israel occupied the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War of 1967. It sees the entire city as its indivisible capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.

Netanyahu had previously indicated that he would give his backing for the proposal to absorb Ma'ale Adumim, Beitar Illit and Efrat, along with the Etzion bloc of settlements, into the Jerusalem municipality.

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"We are in touch with the Americans", Netanyahu said, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Some 500000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians. "As we have been coordinating with them until now, it is worth [continuing] talking and coordinating with them". Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal, citing historical, biblical and political links to the territory, as well as security considerations.

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Israel to postpone controversial 'annexation' bill