Israel | National

Netanyahu says he and Mike Pompeo talked about annexing the Jordan Valley

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he discussed annexing the Jordan Valley with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when they met in Portugal, but the State Department has denied the claim.

On Thursday, a day after meeting Pompeo in Lisbon, Netanyahu told reporters that they had talked about the possibility of annexing the West Bank territory.

The following day, however, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker said at a Washington news conference that no such discussion had taken place.

“I can tell you that there was no annexation plan, full or partial, for any part of the West Bank was presented to – by Israel to the United States during the meeting, and that has long been the U.S. Government position, that the ultimate disposition of territory is to be determined between the parties,” Schenker said, according to a readout of the news conference.

On Sunday, Netanyahu doubled down on his assertion.

“It was said that we had not discussed a formal plan and that was true, but the issue was raised and I raised it with Secretary of State Pompeo and I intend to raise the issue with the Trump administration,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the Makor Rishon newspaper annual conference.

“I want American recognition of our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley. This is important,” Netanyahu told the conference hosted by the right-wing newspaper.

Palestinians and most of the international community see the West Bank as occupied Palestinian territory. Successive Israeli governments have viewed control of the Jordan Valley, which is home to several Jewish settlements, as a strategic asset.

Pompeo announced last month that the Trump administration will no longer regard West Bank Jewish settlement as illegal.