After Gantz Pours Cold Water on Annexation, Netanyahu Says Issue Not Up to Him

'The issue is not up to Kahol Lavan,' Netanyahu says of Gantz's party ■ 'Anything that is not related to the coronavirus can wait,' Gantz said earlier

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Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 28, 2020.
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, June 28, 2020. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that the issue of annexation is not up to alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz's party, after Gantz hinted that Netanyahu's annexation plan may not begin on the target July 1 start date.

His comments at a Likud party meeting came shortly after Gantz said that anything unrelated to the coronavirus can wait, and hours after Gantz told U.S. President Donald Trump's envoys that "July 1 is not a sacred date."

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"We are in contact with the American team here in Israel," Netanyahu said at a Likud meeting. "We are doing so discreetly. The issue is not up to [Gantz's party] Kahol Lavan. They are not a factor either way."

Earlier on Monday, Gantz met with Trump's special envoy Avi Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to discuss the Trump administration's peace plan.

According to sources in Gantz's party, he told them that the target date of July 1 "is not a sacred date." According to Gantz, before moving forward with annexation, "people must be returned to their jobs and the coronavirus must be dealt with."

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz at a cabinet meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 21, 2020.Credit: Marc Israel Sellem

Gantz added 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."

According to sources, Gantz said in the meeting that Trump's peace plan "is a historic move that constitutes the right and the best framework for promoting peace in the Middle East." He added that the plan must move forward together with "the strategic partners in the region and the Palestinians, and reach an outline that benefits all sides proportionally, responsibly and reciprocally."

On Friday, Gantz said that Palestinians will have full rights wherever Israeli law is applied.

"This week I defined several parameters for diplomatic moves made by Israel," Gantz wrote in a Facebook post. "We will not apply Israeli law in places in which there are many Palestinians or in cases where we would harm their mobility; if there'll be Palestinian citizens in regions where Israeli law is applied, they will have equal rights."

"Preliminary work will be done in both diplomatic and security capacities to ensure we will not harm the country's safety, as well as our peace agreements and strategic assets," he added.

Overnight Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented on the case for Israeli unilateral annexation of settlements in the West Bank in a speech at a virtual conference of the Christians United for Israel organization.

Speaking about the religious significance of biblical sites in the West Bank, Netanyahu praised Trump for presenting a Middle East plan that allows Israel to annex these territories, which have been under military occupation since 1967.

The prime minister's speech comes amid discussions between senior Israeli and American officials regarding unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank. 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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