Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed on Monday that he has been talking “for a while now” with Washington about applying Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements. However, a few hours later, White House spokesman Josh Raffel blasted the report as “false.”

West Bank settlement

West Bank settlement Photo Credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash 90

Israel is discussing the annexation of West Bank settlements with US President Donald Trump’s administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud lawmakers during a faction meeting on Monday. “On the matter of applying sovereignty [in the West Bank], I can tell you that for a while now I’ve been talking about it with the Americans,” he stated.

Netanyahu told the Likud MKs that he is adhering to two principles regarding the matter. “The first, coordinating with the Americans as much as possible because the relationship with them is a strategic asset for the State of Israel and the settlement enterprise,” he explained. “The second, this needs to be a government initiative and not a private one because it would be a historic move.”

However, a few hours after Israeli media began reporting about Netanyahu’s statement, the White House stressed that Trump has never discussed such a proposal with Israel. “Reports that the United States discussed with Israel an annexation plan for the West Bank are false,” White House spokesperson Josh Raffel stated. “The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the President’s focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.”

The White House denied the report shortly after the Prime Minister’s Office clarified Netanyahu’s statement. A senior Prime Minister’s Office official said on Monday evening that Netanyahu has been talking with Washington for quite some time about Israel’s interests that would need to be preserved in a future peace agreement. “The Prime Minister has not presented the United States with specific annexation proposals and regardless, the United States did not agree to the proposals,” he stressed.

“Israel updated the United States regarding the various proposals that have been discussed at the Knesset and the United States expressed its clear position that it is asking to advance [US] President [Donald] Trump’s peace plan,” the official added

On Sunday, the Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation was supposed to vote on the controversial bill that seeks to apply Israeli sovereignty over all West Bank settlements. However, the vote was postponed due to the security situation along Israel’s northern border with Syria. The so-called Sovereignty Bill was drafted by Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Ha-Bayit Ha-Yehudi).