Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, following a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, that his government “will keep working” on the issue of West Bank annexation “in the coming days,” hinting that it will miss a July 1 target date Netanyahu himself set.
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Speaking at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he met earlier on Tuesday with Trump’s envoy Avi Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman, “and spoke to them about sovereignty. It’s an issue we’re working on.”
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz met with Berkowitz and Friedman on Monday, and told them that "July 1 is not a sacred date."
Gantz also said alluding to annexation that "anything that is not related to the coronavirus will wait," adding that the battle against the coronavirus would be long, “and that's exactly why Kahol Lavan, together with Likud, established this unity government and prevented a fourth election."
Netanyahu responded by saying that the issue is not up to Gantz and his Kahol Lavan party to decide.
The Trump administration is expected to give Israel a green light to go ahead with annexation, but the scope and timeline has yet to be determined.
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Earlier on Friday Gantz also said he would only support annexing parts of the West Bank as long as Palestinians living there are granted full rights.
In an interview with the Israel Hayom daily earlier in May, Netanyahu said that Palestinians residing in the Jordan Valley would not be granted Israeli citizenship after the region is annexed by Israel, but will remain citizens of a future Palestinian entity.
The Jordan Valley, which is strategically important partly because it encompasses the border between the West Bank and Jordan, is widely considered to be one of the most likely targets of Israel's plans for partial annexation.
The plans focus on the region known as "Area C" in the language of the Oslo Accords, which represents as much as 60 per cent of the West Bank as a whole and is already under full Israeli control. This is an area where the population of Israeli settlers is larger than that of Palestinians.