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Kushner says he hopes Israel waits on sovereignty steps in West Bank

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said Washington wants Israel to wait until after its March 2 election before making any moves toward settlement annexation in the West Bank, following the announcement of a U.S. peace plan.

Kushner, an architect of the peace proposal hailed by Israel and rejected by the Palestinians, raised the stop sign in a video interview, posted on the internet on Thursday, with GZERO Media, a subsidiary of risk analysis firm Eurasia Group.

In the interview, he also voiced American displeasure with the Palestinians, who rejected the plan announced on Tuesday by U.S. President Donald Trump, accusing them of playing “the victimhood card” and passing up an opportunity for a state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has hailed the U.S. proposal, told reporters on Tuesday that he would ask his Cabinet next week to approve applying Israeli law to Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Such a move could be a first step toward formal annexation of the settlements and the Jordan Valley - territory Israel has kept under military occupation since its capture in the 1967 Middle East war and which Palestinians seek for a future state.

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“Well let’s see what happens,” Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, said when asked about the possibility Israel would begin an annexation process as early as this weekend. “The hope is that they’ll wait until after the election and we’ll work with them to try to come up with something.”

A senior Israeli official traveling on Netanyahu’s flight home on Thursday was non-committal over whether the issue would be raised at the next Cabinet meeting, which is usually held on Sundays.

FILE PHOTO: A general view picture shows the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Old City in the background and part of the Israeli barrier in the foreground, as seen from the Palestinian town of Abu Dis in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, east of Jerusalem January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Ammar Awad

“The issue is being looked into,” the official told reporters on the plane.

Israel, the official said, initially understood it could declare sovereignty in two stages: immediately, with regard to territory clearly within the U.S. plan’s West Bank map delineation, and later on for more complex areas.

But the Americans preferred a full and final map before Israel took action, the official said, adding: “We are working it out.”

In the interview, Kushner called on Palestinian leaders to “put up or shut up” and said they now have a “golden opportunity” to help their people.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called Trump’s blueprint an “onslaught against the national rights of the Palestinian people”. He plans to speak against the proposal in the U.N. Security Council in the next two weeks.

Washington’s plan envisages a two-state solution with Israel and a future Palestinian state living alongside each other, but with strict conditions on the Palestinians.

It gives Israel much of what it has long sought, including recognition of its West Bank settlements and Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. A redrawn, demilitarized Palestinian state would be subject to Israeli security control, receiving tracts of desert in return for arable land settled by Israelis.

Most countries consider Israeli settlements on land captured in war to be a violation of international law. Trump has changed U.S. policy to withdraw such objections.

Additional reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Peter Graff and Jonathan Oatis

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