Minister Says Would Back Israeli Annexation Even if Gantz Opposes It

Hendel, whose faction ran with Kahol Lavan in the latest election, says him and party leader Gantz 'may no agree on this,' while opposition lawmaker also says might back partial annexation of the West Bank

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Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel attends a cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, June 14, 2020.
Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel attends a cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, June 14, 2020.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel told Army Radio on Thursday that he intends to back annexation regardless of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s view on it.

“I’ll vote for extending sovereignty. I respect Benny Gantz’s stance, and we may not agree on this," said the Derech Eretz lawmaker, who ran with Gantz's Kahol Lavan in Israel's March election.

Hendel ran on the Telem party slate, before splitting to form his own faction, Derech Eretz, with Zvi Hauser in order to join the unity government along with Kahol Lavan and avoid being in the opposition after the alliance split. Telem, headed by former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, remained in the opposition.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu checks a map of the area during a visit to the Ariel settlement in the West Bank. Feb. 24, 2020Credit: Sebastian Scheiner,AP

On Wednesday, Meretz lawmaker Yair Golan said that if Israel declares that its goal is to separate from the Palestinians, he will support partial annexation of the West Bank.

Golan was asked about the annexation of the Jordan Valley, Etzion Bloc and Ma’aleh Adumim in an interview on Radio 90FM. “If Israel declares, ‘our goal is to separate from the Palestinians,’ and as part of the step of separation from the Palestinians we annex Gush Etzion or Ma’aleh Adumim, I will support it,” he said. “If the Israeli government declares that its supreme goal is to separate from the Palestinians and reach a solution in which they do not live under our control, I’ll support that.”

Meretz's Yair Golan is seen in an undated photo at a defense industry exhibition.Credit: Moti Milrod

When asked about U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan, Golan said that if the entire Israeli right wing, “including its most extreme factions, accept the framework of separation from the Palestinians – I’m in favor.” He said that there is no need to annex the entire Jordan Valley according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s vision. “It is possible to settle for something much more modest,” he said, adding that the Trump plan has “practical things and it has things that are not at all practical.”

Golan criticized Netanyahu’s intention to annex parts of the West Bank unilaterally, and not as part of negotiations with the Palestinians: “As far as I’m concerned, that is the end of the Zionist dream. If we want to separate from the Palestinians, how will the present annexation help us? It won’t help us, so we need to deal with the bigger strategy and not local tactical matters.”

In response, Meretz’s Tamar Zandberg said that “any legitimization of annexation echoes the pyromania of Bibi [Netanyahu], who is using annexation in an attempt to escape justice and is playing into his hands.”

Meretz Secretary General Tomer Reznik said the idea of land swaps as part of an agreement with the Palestinians, which Golan supports, is part of the Geneva Initiative and the Meretz platform.

Former Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz attacked Golan, saying: “Annexation is a violation of international law, a violation of the peace agreements and a violation of the Oslo Accords. Annexation is apartheid.”

The target date that Netanyahu has set for annexation is July 1. The coalition agreement states that from this date Netanyahu can bring “an agreement reached with the United States on the matter of applying sovereignty to a discussion in the security cabinet and cabinet and for approval by the cabinet and/or Knesset.” But this week, Netanyahu said: “I wanted to bring the annexation for approval soon, but the map is still not ready.” He added that he still does not know what Kahol Lavan’s position on the matter is.

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