Gantz Instructs Army Chief to Accelerate Prep for 'Diplomatic Changes in Palestinian Arena'

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Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benny Gantz visits the Southern Command with Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, May 26, 2020.
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benny Gantz visits the Southern Command with Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, May 26, 2020.Credit: Ariel Hermony / Defense Ministry

Israel’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, said Monday that he has instructed Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to accelerate preparations for "the upcoming diplomatic changes in the Palestinian arena." 

According to Gantz's statement, the defense minister "Updated the chief of staff about progress in the political arena." The move comes in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stated intent that Israel will begin the process of annexaing parts of the West Bank on July 1.

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Also on Monday, Netanyahu discussed the subject of annexation with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, adviser and son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.

Last week, Haaretz reported that Kochavi was issuing an alert to army commanders regarding a possible escalation in the occupied territories ahead of July. Sources in the Israeli army explained that "this is the chief of staff's way of saying 'be prepared, escalation is very realistic.'”

In recent weeks, the IDF has been preparing to implement operational plans in the event that annexation results in a violent outbreak, and Kochavi convened a discussion in which possible scenarios were reviewed.

Israeli right-wing demonstration calling for immediate West Bank annexation with placards reframing the 'Peace Now' slogan to 'Annexation Now.' Jerusalem, 8 May 2020Credit: Emil Salman

Last week, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh addressed the Palestinian Authority's decision to end security coordination with Israel in light of Israel's intent to annex parts of the West Bank.

In a press conference in Ramallah, Shtayyeh said that the PA is committed to maintaining order and applying its sovereignty in the West Bank while defending the civil rights of Palestinians.

"This is an important battle," said Shtayyeh, "It's the battle over Palestinian national existence in this territory and the prevention of Israel's annexation of Palestinian land for the sake of settlement expansion." Shtayyeh added that the PA is absolved of all signed agreements because Israel has repeatedly violated their terms. 

The move is centered around the Palestinian Authority cooperation with Israel on certain security matters, but ending these agreements also has many civil complications. One such issue is the PA's coordination with Israel to allow Palestinians to seek medical care in Israeli hospitals. Shtayyeh said that Palestinian patients will therein be treated in the Palestinian territories, and that the PA is working to bolster the healthcare infrastructure in its territory. A Palestinian official told Haaretz that in severe cases, treatment for Gazan patients will be coordinated with Egypt or the United Nations.

Shtayyeh told reporters that the PA will not allow the civil rights of Palestinians to be trampled as a result, and it will demand these rights as stipulated in international law.

Sources in Fatah told Haaretz that the true test of withdrawal from agreements will be the future of the Israeli army's routine operations in territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority. "One of the characteristics of the security coordination is the entrance of Israeli forces into Palestinian villages and cities without clashing with Palestinian forces. This week we'll see how much of this has really ended."

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