Israel should wait for peace plan before West Bank annexation, says Jason Greenblatt

'I don’t think anyone should make unilateral moves until we at least reveal the plan,' he said

FILE PHOTO: White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (L) speaks with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and lawyer Jason Greenblatt (R) before a meeting of the United Nations Security Council at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo
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Israel should hold off on the partial annexation of the occupied West Bank until the US has presented its controversial Middle East peace plan, US special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt said on Tuesday.

“I don’t think anyone should make unilateral moves until we at least reveal the plan,” Mr Greenblatt told Israel's Channel 12 News. "I don’t think that’s helpful to anybody."

This week he endorsed US ambassador David Friedman's comments in support of Israel partially annexing the West Bank. Such a move is against international law and a dramatic break with decades of US policy in the region.

It came amid continuing speculation over the so-called Deal of the Century and the economic conference for Palestinians, to be held in Bahrain next week.

The US has described the Bahrain conference as a workshop aimed at raising money for Palestinian companies. It will be followed by the unveiling of the political part of the plan at an unspecified date.

The administration has repeatedly set and postponed release dates for their peace proposal, while few details are publicly known about what will be on the table at the Bahrain conference.

Palestinian leaders and major businessmen who have been invited are boycotting the event, denouncing the "economic-peace" approach as biased against Palestinian interests.

Israeli officials, meanwhile, are not being invited because the US wanted "to depoliticise the issue", Mr Greenblatt said.

There will therefore be no formal representation of either the Palestinians or Israelis, whose future is the topic of concern.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar will be attending. Jordan, Egypt and Morocco have signalled that they will attend, but have not confirmed who they plan to send.

Mr Greenblatt played down concerns that the economic conference was an attempt to "buy off" Palestinians.

The workshop would show how “we achieve a political agreement”, he said.

While formal Israeli representatives will not be attending, Mr Greenblatt said they would be brought in later to consult on ideas.

The Palestinian leadership threatened last week to refer Mr Friedman to the International Criminal Court for his endorsement of an illegal annexation.

The long-standing relationship between the Palestinian leadership and US has soured under the Trump administration.

Last year, the US cut off funding to Palestinian aid and refugee services and shut down the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Washington.

While the Palestinian Authority, the semi-autonomous government based in the West Bank, is deeply unpopular among its own people, the public and leaders are united in opposing the Trump administration's policies.