A senior Israeli minister said on Wednesday that a Cabinet vote to endorse annexation of parts of the West Bank will not take place early next week, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's pledge a day earlier to act quickly after the U.S. released a peace plan rejected by the Palestinians.
Netanyahu said he would ask the Cabinet to advance the extension of Israeli sovereignty over most Jewish settlements and the strategic Jordan Valley, a move that would likely spark international outrage and complicate the White House's efforts to build support for the plan.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin told Israel Radio that a Cabinet vote on annexing territories on Sunday was not technically feasible because of various preparations, including ``bringing the proposal before the attorney general and letting him consider the matter.''
Hard-line Israeli nationalists have called for the immediate annexation of West Bank settlements ahead of the country's third parliamentary elections in under a year, scheduled for March 2.
They have eagerly embraced the part of President Donald Trump's peace plan that would allow Israel to annex territory but have rejected its call for a Palestinian state in parts of the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinians angrily rejected the Trump plan which largely adopts the Israeli position on all the thorniest issues of the decades-old conflict, from borders and the status of Jerusalem to security measures and the fate of Palestinian refugees.
Levin, a senior member of Netanyahu's Likud party, said the Palestinian state envisioned by the Trump peace plan is ``roughly the same Palestinian Authority that exists today, with authority to manage civil affairs,'' but lacking ``substantive powers'' like border control or a military.
Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has warned against any Israeli ``annexation of Palestinian lands,`` reaffirming its commitment to an independent Palestinian state formed on the basis of the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war, as part of a future independent state. Most of the international community considers Israel's West Bank settlements illegal under international law.
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted Wednesday that ``that which is postponed to after the elections will never happen.''
``If we postpone or reduce the extension of sovereignty (in the West Bank), then the opportunity of the century will turn into the loss of the century,'' said Bennett, a hawkish Netanyahu ally with the New Right party.
Nahum Barnea, a veteran Israeli columnist, stridently criticized the Trump plan in Wednesday's Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth, saying it would create a Palestinian state ``more meager than Andorra, more fractured than the Virgin Islands.``
He cautioned that annexation would lead to ``a reality of two legal systems for two populations in the same territory _ one ruling, the second occupied. In other words, an Apartheid state.''