Annexation as early as July 1 under Netanyahu-Gantz deal
Gantz has opposed annexation in the past. The coalition agreement, however, allows for Netanyahu to move forward on annexation irrespective of Gantz’s position on the matter.
By TOVAH LAZAROFF
The annexation of 30% of Area C of the West Bank – including all the settlements therein – could begin to move forward as early as July 1, under the terms of the coalition agreement signed on Monday between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz.The words “Palestinians” and “Palestine” were not referenced in the two sections of the coalition deal, paragraphs 28 and 29, in which both Netanyahu and Gantz pledge to work toward peace with Israel’s neighbors.According to paragraph 28: “The Prime Minister and the Alternate Prime Minister will work together and in coordination to advance a peace agreement with all our neighbors and to advance regional cooperation in a variety of economic spheres, as well as with respect to the COVID-19 crisis.”The coalition agreement splits the premiership between Netanyahu and Gantz, with Netanyahu serving as head of state for 18 months followed by Gantz for another year and a half.Both men pledged to support the peace plan that US President Donald Trump unveiled in Washington in January. It allowed for Israeli sovereignty in the first of a four-year process, which also provided for the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state in 70% of the West Bank.Gantz has opposed annexation and would prefer to come to an agreement with the Palestinians and the international community for Israel to retain much of that 30% of West Bank land within its sovereignty. The coalition agreement, however, allows for Netanyahu to move forward on annexation irrespective of Gantz’s position on the matter.Paragraph 28 also states: “With regard to President Trump's declaration [on the peace plan], the Prime Minister and the Alternate Prime Minister will act in full agreement with the United States, including with the Americans in regard to the maps and with international dialogue on the subject.”They will do “all of this while pursuing the security and strategic interests of the State of Israel, including the need for maintaining regional stability, the preservation of peace agreements and the pursuit of future peace agreements,” it stated.The agreement went on in paragraph 29 to detail the manner in which Netanyahu could bring a sovereignty bill to the Knesset, including a decision to limit authorship of such legislation to Netanyahu’s Likud Party.This would prevent either members of the Yamina or Yisrael Beytenu parties from putting forward such a bill.Paragraph 29 of the agreement states: “After discussions and consultations are conducted between the Prime Minister and the Alternate Prime Minister based on the principles outlined above, the Prime Minister will be able to bring forward the agreement reached with the United States on the application of sovereignty for debate by the cabinet and government and for approval by the government and/or the Knesset as of July 1, 2020.”Paragraph 29 continues: “If the Prime Minister wants to bring his proposal to the Knesset, he can do so through a member of Knesset, provided that [the parliamentarian] is from the Likud faction. A preliminary reading would be held so that the legislation could be amended in conjunction with the wording that the prime minister presented to the cabinet and government.”On the assumption that the legislation would be sponsored by the government, the bill would be presented for a preliminary reading and a first reading, paragraph 29 stated.The legislation would then be “passed into law in the quickest way possible and in a manner that would not disrupt or delay the process by the heads of the Knesset Committee and the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee,” it stated.PLO SECRETARY-GENERAL Saeb Erekat called on both Netanyahu and Gantz to engage in a peace process based on the pre-1967 lines, which would allow the Palestinians to retain all of the West Bank, including the territory where the settlements are located.There is broad agreement in the international community for this position.“A government coalition based on a commitment to annex more occupied Palestinian territory is a threat to a rules-based world order in general, but to peace, security and stability in the Middle East in particular,” Erekat said.“Annexation means the end of any possibility for a negotiated solution. It is an international responsibility to hold the new Israeli government accountable and to demand full implementation of its obligations under international law and signed agreements,” he said.Both the PLO and the PA have rejected the Trump peace plan.The Israeli left-wing group Peace Now accused both men of prioritizing a fringe concept that lacked national consensus at a time when all resources should be going to combating the COVID-19 pandemic. It warned that annexation would lead to an apartheid-like state with two different classes of citizens: Israelis and Palestinians.In a message aimed at Gantz, Peace Now stated: “Don't sell us stories about an emergency government to fight the coronavirus when you are in fact a partner in establishing an annexation government. Anyone who bolsters the far-right now will be responsible in the future if annexation is implemented and Israel's democratic future is imperiled."Settler leaders welcomed the move. Efrat Council head Oded Revivi said that such a show of unity was critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of three election campaigns.“I believe that the unity government will also help fan the flames of hatred between the various camps in Israeli society. The eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day is a symbolic moment for demonstrations of unity in Israel,” Revivi said.Other settler leaders reminded Netanyahu and Gantz that sovereignty must be on the top of their agenda.“The new government that is being established has an unprecedented majority for the application of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” Yesha Council head David Elhayani said.“We expect to see the Knesset approve such a law in the near future. Together, with a strong and united government, we will continue the previous government's' policy of developing and promoting settlement in the region,” he added.Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said, “we will work with the new government in partnership and friendship, and necessarily with insistence, to ensure the application of sovereignty over Judea and Samaria in the near future.”Coalition deal keeps Amir Ohana’s state attorney in place.