Netanyahu: Gantz's Party 'May Be in Favor' of Partial Annexation of Jordan Valley, Settlement Blocs

Speaking to Likud lawmakers, prime minister says he 'wanted to bring annexation for approval soon,' but still missing clear map for proposed move

Noa Landau
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Benny Gantz, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020.
Benny Gantz, left, and Benjamin Netanyahu during a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, May 31, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his opponent-turned-coalition partner Benny Gantz and his Kahol Lavan faction might be in favor of his annexation plan, as the prospects of a July 1 start to the process remain uncertain. 

LISTEN: How Netanyahu could fudge annexation, hoodwink Gantz and cling on to power

“I wanted to bring annexation for approval soon, but the map isn’t ready yet," Netanyahu said at a Likud party meeting.

"We don’t know what’s with Kahol Lavan, it’s a good question, even I don’t know where they stand," he added. "They may be in favor of [annexing] the Jordan Valley and settlement blocs.

Benny Gantz has previously supported the idea of annexation, although there are disagreements regarding the scale and pace at which it should happen. 

During a speech before the American Jewish Committee, which held its annual conference virtually in light of the coronavirus crisis, Gantz on Monday called U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East proposal a "great plan," adding "We have to work on the basis of it and move forward with regional partners, with local partners, of course with consensus within the Israeli society, and with full coordination and backup with the United States."

Netanyahu also said he wouldn’t bring Trump’s plan in its entirety for a government or Knesset vote, but only the annexation part it.

“If and when there’s a peace agreement, we can bring it [to a vote] – but not before that,” he said.

Israel's longest-serving leader's attempts at cementing his legacy by achieving unprecedented sovereignty over the Palestinian Territories has been faced with opposition on all sides. Apart from the United States, which is currently in the throes of a health and economic crisis and a historic wave of protests, the plan has not garnered any support in the international community.

Israeli soldiers take position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against expansion of Israeli settlements, Beita, near Nablus, West Bank, March 2, 2020.
Israeli soldiers take position as Palestinian demonstrators gather during a protest against expansion of Israeli settlements, Beita, near Nablus, West Bank, March 2, 2020.Credit: Majdi Mohammed / AP

The Palestinians came out against the Trump plan from the start, and diplomatic tensions have escalated since, with the Palestinian Authority eventually deciding to end all coordination with Israel, and renege on all agreements - including the Oslo Accords. 

Despite this, the Palestinian leadership, faced with a crisis of confidence, has found it difficult to rally the public. Many of those directly concerned by the plan, which will see Israel take over large swathes of the West Bank, remain in the dark as to what their fate will be in any new political construct. 

At home, while Israel's dovish left demonstrated in small but vocal numbers, the majority of centrist Israelis have mostly radiated apathy, despite the real possibility that annexation will change Israel's very character, and its place in the region.

Right-wing supporters of the settler movement have also been unexpectedly frigid about annexation. Many fear that the Trump plan, by allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state, however reduced and ineffective, will make their long-term plans for full sovereignty over what they term Judea and Samaria impossible.

Judy Maltz contributed to this report.

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