Gantz Tells Settlement Leaders to Take What They Can Get on Annexation

Defense minister urges concessions at meeting of settlement council heads, stresses importance of maintaining peace deal with Jordan for regional stability

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Hagar Shezaf
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Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a government meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a government meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with West Bank settlement leaders on Tuesday, advising them to take what they can get from U.S. President Donald Trump's "Middle East peace plan."

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Sources present at the meeting said that Gantz repeated that it's important to the Americans that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu see eye-to-eye on the process of annexation. According to attendees, most of the meeting dealt with professional matters; only at the end did Gantz bring up annexation.

Prominent figures within the settler community have been vocal with their criticism of Trump's proposed plan, with Yesha Council of settlements chairman David Elhayani arguing that senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner and the president "have proven in their plan that they are not friends of the State of Israel."

Elhayani cited the freeze on settlement expansion and the leaving some 15 isolated settlements inside territories of a future Palestinian state, whose establishment he also opposes, as elements that bolster his position.

Those who attended said the meeting went well, and that Gantz recommended that regarding the Trump plan, they "Be like MAPAI members" and take what is given to you, a reference to Israel's first ruling party, who had to make concessions to the British to establish the state.

Gantz stressed Israel's partnership with the United States and the importance of conserving it, and noted that in making diplomatic decisions, "we must be aware of what is happening on the ground and all around us." He emphasized the importance of Israel's peace treaty with Jordan, which he said increases regional stability and defense.

The regional council head of Efrat, Oded Revivi, said in a statement that during the discussion, Gantz learned about the disparities that settlements face in welfare, education, transportation and other areas. "The bottom line is that it is impossible and wrong to keep relying on the Civil Administration alone, but to adopt a broader change," he said. To accept the Trump plan and apply Israeli law to the settlements, he said, would make their needs, and budget requests, fall under the purview of government offices.  

 "Our responsibility," Gantz also said, "is that long before we make a decision about sovereignty, to help cultivate and help places in which people live legally both in security and to allow a normal life.

"Although there will be disagreements along the way, the conserving unity in Israeli society is key. I made my political steps because I saw the social danger in the State of Israel," he said, "and we cannot permit tension of the intensity we experienced in the past few years for ourselves."  

Michael Biton, who acts as Civilian Affairs Minister within the Defense Ministry, also joined the meeting, which took place at the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division in Bet El. 

After the meeting, the left-wing activist group Peace Now released a statement saying that "today it is already clear that the public opposes Netanyahu and Trump's dangerous and unrealistic annexation deal. Gantz is obligated to clearly voice today that he will end the initiative of annexing territory, even at the price of dissolving the government."  

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