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Israel's West Bank annexation postponed for a year, not cancelled, says Friedman

US ambassador to Israel reiterates that controversial annexation plans have only been temporarily suspended
Archimandrite Abdullah Yulio, parish priest of the Melkite Greek Catholic church in Ramallah, joins other Palestinians as they gather to commemorate the second intifada and to protest against the Israeli normalisation deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank (AFP)

Israel's pledge to halt the annexation of the occupied West Bank under its recent normalisation deal with the UAE and Bahrain would not stop it going ahead in future, David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, again emphasised on Wednesday.

"We said in our statement that sovereignty will be postponed, and this does not mean that it has been abolished, but rather that it has stopped. It has been suspended for a year, maybe more, but it has not been cancelled," Friedman told Israeli Army Radio.

Friedman attended the signing of the controversial normalisation deal between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE in Washington on 15 September.

Palestinians from across the political spectrum have condemned the deal as an act of “betrayal” of their struggle against Israeli occupation. 

President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian political leaders say the accords violate a longstanding pan-Arab position that Israel could normalise relations only in return for an end to the occupation.

The UAE has said that as part of the normalisation deal it had obtained a major concession from Israel and the US to halt plans to annex territory in the occupied West Bank.

However, in an interview with Israel Hayom newspaper following the signing, Friedman predicted that the annexation would still take place. "I think it will happen," he was quoted as saying. 

He added that he believed the issue could be revisited in a manner that would be less controversial. "It's a temporary suspension," he said.