Analysis

Gantz Is Begging the Palestinians to Pull Him Out of ‘Deep Shit’ of Annexation

When the Israeli defense minister says Palestinians won't negotiate and are stuck in their own 'deep shit,' he's actually angry that they won't extricate him from the mess

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz in a government meeting in Jerusalem, June 22, 2020.
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz in a government meeting in Jerusalem, June 22, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

For quite some time, Benny Gantz has been mouthing meaningless words in an unsuccessful effort to explain his Kahol Lavan party’s views on annexing parts of the West Bank.

Not unilaterally, yes unilaterally. Only with the international community’s (unobtainable) consent, only with Jordan’s (unobtainable) consent. Only the Jordan Valley, only the settlement blocs. Only as part of the broader Trump plan, only a limited symbolic step. Only with a gesture to the Palestinians – but who needs the Palestinians anyway? Just don’t ask us to elaborate.

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That, roughly, is what he sounds like. To this day, Kahol Lavan hasn’t managed to say anything clear on the subject. They’re neither for it nor against it. They have a list of impossible conditions, but if those conditions aren’t met, then fine, let’s annex anyway. This ambiguity is especially grating given their coalition partner’s assertion that annexation is its top priority.

Even at a briefing for military correspondents on Tuesday, Gantz didn’t provide a clear answer as to whether he’s for or against. His remarks sounded more like a threat against the Palestinians for refusing to extricate him from this mess.

Last week, sources in Kahol Lavan told Haaretz that the Palestinians could save the situation: If they just agreed to negotiate, there would be no unilateral moves, and the whole mess would be postponed to an indefinite time in the future.

And lo and behold, on Tuesday, Gantz himself said that if the Palestinians aren’t willing to resume negotiations, Israel will have to “move forward without them.”

“We won’t keep waiting for the Palestinians,” he said. “The Palestinians continue to reject dialogue and remain stuck in their own deep shit.”

In reality, the person in “deep shit” here is Gantz himself. He can neither support nor oppose annexation, so all that’s left is pleading with the Palestinians – by threatening them. Start negotiating or you’ve had it. Because they only understand force. Apparently, that’s what he was taught in the army.

Gantz predicted in his briefing that annexation “won’t affect” the daily lives of either Israelis or Palestinians living in the West Bank, adding that it would even “thaw the diplomatic freeze.” These are messages straight from the Trump administration’s talking points.

To soften them, he returned to his party’s own confused talking points, saying he would strive “to reduce, insofar as possible, the danger of Israel becoming a binational state, while also preserving national security, through close coordination with the U.S., other countries and the Palestinians, to the extent that they also want to be part of the discussion.”

How eminently logical. Gantz wants to thaw the diplomatic freeze by removing the Palestinians from the equation. Peace begins and ends among ourselves. We don’t need partners.

According to Gantz, not only can we comfortably annex with the consent of the whole region and the entire world and make progress on peace without the other side, but it’s also possible to carry out the world’s most moral annexation. “We won’t take Palestinians into our territory, we won’t infringe on their human rights and freedom of movement,” he promised. It’s as if he had never been in the territories.

In recent days, Kahol Lavan has shaken up its public relations operation, moving some people to other jobs and recruiting new ones. “We have a public relations problem,” party members said.

But Kahol Lavan, like Israel itself, doesn’t have a public relations problem; its problem is reality. People devoid of any clear ideology can’t explain or market it.

This is evident, above all, in something else Gantz said at the briefing – that Israel must “not only manage the conflict but also design it.” No, Gantz, Israel has to end it. Managing and designing should be left to students at the Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art.

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