Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes an address at the president's residence in Jerusalem. Photo: AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not follow through on his election promise to annex West Bank settlements before an American peace plan is released, Israel’s UN ambassador said Wednesday.

Netanyahu made the pledge during the last days of campaigning for the April 9 election, raising alarm bells over a move that would destroy prospects for Palestinian statehood.

“I don’t think that we will take any action before the plan is published,” Ambassador Danny Danon told reporters.

“We will wait. We will see the plan. We will engage and I don’t know where it will lead us.”

Netanyahu did not specify which parts of the West Bank would be annexed, but Israeli sovereignty over a large area would dash hopes for the Palestinians of establishing a state of their own in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

US President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to unveil its proposals for Israeli-Palestinian peace in the coming weeks, but Danon noted that Palestinian leaders had already declared the plan “dead on arrival.”

He said the plan would be published “in the near future” and suggested that the timing would likely be between May – after the new Israeli government takes office – and November, when the US election season starts.

Israeli press reports have said the plan, which is expected to focus heavily on economic development, could be made public at the end of May or early June.

Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is the chief architect of the proposals along with lawyer Jason Greenblatt.

Meanwhile, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday formally handed Netanyahu his letter of appointment to start building a coalition government following last week’s general election.

In a televised ceremony, Rivlin told Netanyahu that in consultations with all parties elected to the incoming 120-seat parliament, “65 MPs recommended you.”

Rivlin had sounded out delegations from political parties on Monday and Tuesday.

Only 45 members supported his main rivals from the Blue and White alliance led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz, with the 10 members of the Arab parties recommending nobody.

“This is the fifth time I am taking on the task of putting together the government of Israel,” Netanyahu said at Wednesday’s ceremony.

“There is no greater privilege in democratic life.”

In his remarks, Rivlin referred to the election campaign, which candidates and commentators agreed had been exceptionally brutal.

“Things were said that should not have been said, from all sides,” he said.

Netanyahu then pledged to serve all Israelis, opponents as well as supporters.

“I am well aware of the size of the responsibility placed upon my shoulders and shall act as the envoy of all of the people, those who voted for me and those who did not,” he said.

He now has 28 days to form a government, with a possible extension of a further two weeks.

The results from the April 9 election put Netanyahu on course to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister later this year, surpassing the state’s founding father David Ben-Gurion.

– with reporting by AFP

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