White House opposed vote on Israel 'annexation' bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes his way by helicopter to the Etzion Bloc in the West Bank

An official close to Israel's prime minister says a vote to link West Bank settlements to Jerusalem is stalled due to US concerns. 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". The bill also would remove some 100,000 Palestinians living in neighborhoods outside the security barrier the city's census and place them under a new municipality.

But the Israeli official said on condition of anonymity that the bill needs "diplomatic preparation", declining to elaborate further. "The Americans turned to us and inquired what the bill was about".

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The Greater Jerusalem legislation would bring some Jewish settlements built in the Palestinian West Bank under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem's municipal authority.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull checked into the King David Hotel in Jerusalem at 2 p.m. on Monday, just less than two days later than he originally intended, and nearly immediately entered into discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The release said they discussed issues facing Israel and how to bolster the relationship between the country and Wisconsin.

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Israeli media reports said the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, had conveyed misgivings about the legislation, under which the large Maale Adumim and Beitar Illit settlements would become part of a Greater Jerusalem municipality. "We are working to promote and develop the settlement enterprise", it quoted Netanyahu as saying at a government meeting Sunday. Israel occupied the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Most countries also consider the West Bank settlements illegal under global law, as well as the formal annexation of land seized during war.

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Israeli leaders on the left and the right maintain that the largest settlement blocs in the West Bank will become part of Israel via land swaps under any future peace deal.

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