Gantz: I’ll give equal rights to Palestinians in annexed areas

Alternate PM says he won’t apply Israeli law to places where many Palestinians live

Blue and White leader and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a Blue and White faction meeting, May 27, 2020 (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Blue and White leader and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a Blue and White faction meeting, May 27, 2020
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz set out his parameters for West Bank annexation on Friday, pledging not to apply Israeli law to territory with large Palestinian population centers and offering equal rights to those Palestinians in territory over which Israel intends to apply sovereignty.
Gantz posted on his Facebook page his vision for moving toward a peace deal with the Palestinians, based on US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which was unveiled in January.
“I won’t apply Israeli law in places where many Palestinians live or where their freedom of movement will be harmed,” said Gantz, who is also the Defense Minister and heads the Blue and White party. “If there are Palestinian residents in areas where Israeli law will be applied, they will be given equal rights.”
He wrote out his parameters with less than a week left until July 1, the earliest date by which, according to the coalition agreement between his party and the Likud, sovereignty can be applied to 30% of the West Bank as long as such a step has US approval.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman was in Washington last week holding talks with officials on the parameters for Israeli annexation. This included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special UN envoy Jared Kushner, who is a senior adviser to Trump.
To date, neither the final details of Israel’s annexation plans nor the map of the territory to be annexed have been made public. The only map published is the one attached to the Trump peace plan when it was unveiled in late January.
That map gives Israel maximal territorial contiguity in the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea and provides the Palestinians with maximal contiguity in the West Bank.
Effectively Israel will be able to annex 50% of Area C which is under Israeli military and civilian control and where all the settlements are located.
Areas A and B of the West Bank, where all the large Palestinian population centers are located would remain under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority and would not be annexed to Israel. At present the 50% of Area C not annexed to Israel, would remain under Israeli military control for the next four years.
Should the Palestinians agree to negotiate within the next four years with Israel under the terms of the Trump plan, that portion of Area C would eventually become part of a Palestinian state.
Effectively the plan places West Bank Israelis within sovereign Israel and earmarks Palestinians to live in a future Palestinian state.
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz have clarified and underscored this essential principle by noting that the plan does not call for annexing areas with large Palestinian population centers.
There are some who hold that once the map is finalized, there would still be a small number of Palestinians who live in areas that would be annexed. The question has then arisen as to whether those Palestinians would be given residency status or Israeli citizenship.
In speaking of his parameters for annexation, Gantz was careful not to use the word citizenship and instead left it vague by referring to “equal rights.”
Gantz referenced on Facebook the many years in which the peace process was frozen.
“For too many years we have not strived for peace or come to an arrangement with the Palestinians. I am in dialogue with all the parties, the Americans, the Europeans and others to see if a diplomatic process can be initiated with the Palestinians by means of the American peace plan,” Gantz said.
But he placed the onus for those talks on the Palestinians, who to date have rejected the Trump peace plan.
“I say to you bluntly, even if it doesn’t sound good, that the Palestinians are mainly the culprits here. They have entrenched themselves in rejectionist positions. But if they are prepared to hold serious negotiations, I will meet them in Ramallah tomorrow morning to hold talks,” Gantz said.
He added that he intends to evaluate the Trump plan from a diplomatic and security perspective to ensure that it would not harm the country’s security, strategic assets or existing peace agreements.
In addition, Gantz said, he would look for way to advance mutual Israeli-Palestinian steps.
Earlier in the day, Gantz spoke about the Trump plan at a Blue and White faction meeting about the importance of this moment.
“Developments on the political-diplomatic front relate to a complex, historic process, which will affect the State of Israel for decades to come,” Gantz said.
“My primary concern is to enable a real political process to unfold, which moves us toward life in peace alongside our Palestinian neighbors – something which has been absent for years. “We are doing so while leaning on the Trump outline and exploring joint strides that involve the Palestinian side as well, while the overarching principle is that the State of Israel will remain a Jewish, democratic and secure state,” he added.