The Israeli cabinet has meet yesterday to finalise plans to annex parts of the West Bank amid growing international opposition and calls for sanctions to be imposed if the proposal is implemented.
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel will "apply sovereignty" to up to 30% of the West Bank, covering Israeli settlements and the rich agricultural lands of the Jordan Valley, from 1 July, reports The Guardian.
On Friday, two rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel a day after the Palestinian group Hamas warned that annexation amounted to a "declaration of war". In response, Israeli air force jets struck two military facilities in the southern Gaza Strip, the army said.
The head of Mossad, the Israeli secret service, visited Amman last week to discuss the annexation plan with King Abdullah of Jordan after he warned of a "massive conflict" with Israel if it proceeded.
Despite Netanyahu's pledge to give the order to annex on Wednesday, he may be forced to dilute or delay the proposal after three days of deliberations at the White House last week ended without an endorsement.
Netanyahu had been counting on the backing of the Trump administration after it unveiled its "vision for peace" six months ago which said Jewish settlements in the West Bank – illegal under international law – and the Jordan Valley would be incorporated into Israel. Kellyanne Conway, a top aide to the US president, said on Thursday that Donald Trump was poised to make a "big announcement" on Israel's planned annexation, but White House officials later said talks were set to continue.
Although there is substantial international opposition to annexation, Trump's endorsement would shore up his crucial support base among evangelical Christians in the US for November's presidential election.
Hardline nationalists in Israel regard Trump's presidency as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to carry out measures that were unacceptable to previous US administrations. The Israeli government, aware that the most pro-Israel president in recent history could fail to win re-election in four months' time, is keen to move fast.
Last week, the UK, Germany and France were among seven European members of the UN security council that issued a joint statement saying the annexation plan was "a clear violation of international law" that would jeopardise the possibility of a future Palestinian state and would threaten security in the region.
The statement added: "Annexation would have consequences for our close relationship with Israel and would not be recognised by us."
The statement followed a letter signed by more than 1,000 European parliamentarians, including senior Conservative figures in the UK, which said "acquisition of territory by force … must have commensurate consequences" and called on European leaders to "act decisively".
The Labour party, a former Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee and a former British consul-general to Jerusalem called this weekend for a ban on the import to the UK of goods from illegal settlements in the West Bank in response to annexation.
The archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster have voiced their opposition to the Israeli plan. The Holy Land Coordination Group, composed of bishops from Europe, North America and South Africa, warned the proposed annexation "would only bring more conflict, suffering and division".