Six-week deadline for Trump deal would put Gantz in hard place - analysis

Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century could end up being an electoral calamity for Gantz and Blue and White.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and MK Yair Lapid (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and MK Yair Lapid
There can be little doubt that the unveiling of the Trump peace plan as is expected this week will dramatically impact the discourse of the current election campaign.
But if, as was reported Monday morning, the US president will issue some form of six-week deadline until after the March 2 election for Israel to take advantage of the plan’s proposals, it could put the Blue and White Party and its leader, Benny Gantz, in an extremely difficult situation.
Indeed, Trump himself indicated on Monday that he believes a quick adoption process is desirable.
Asked in front of the White House next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he expects Netanyahu to implement the peace plan “right away, in the coming six weeks,” Trump responded: “Well, I think he is here for a reason, and hopefully that he’ll [sic] be yes.”
The Trump plan is expected to be very generous to Israel and its various demands and desires. According to a report on KAN News, the deal will allow Israel to annex the Jordan Valley, most of the settlements and 30% of the West Bank in which they lie.
The plan is also expected to include provision for the eventual establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state, allow east Jerusalem to be the Palestinian capital and dismantle several dozen unauthorized settlement outposts.
But if the Palestinian Authority rejects the plan, which several officials have already said they will, it is possible that the Trump plan will allow Israel to go ahead and unilaterally annex portions of the West Bank outlined in the proposals.
Even without a concrete deadline for adoption, it appears that Trump’s plan will delineate which settlement blocs and regions in the West Bank the Trump administration is happy for Israel to apply sovereignty to, therefore indicating that Israel could annex them regardless of Palestinian objections.
This will put Gantz in an invidious position. Does he back a move that would see a Netanyahu government annex the Jordan Valley, or perhaps one of the major settlement blocs, during the election campaign without a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians?
Gantz himself hinted on Saturday night that he did not believe the Trump plan could be implemented as it stands or without cooperation from the Palestinians, saying before he left for the US that the proposals could be “the basis of an agreed-upon accord with the Palestinians and regional states.”
Backing annexation of one or more pieces of territory before the election would surely grant Netanyahu a huge electoral gift, allow him to claim it was his diplomatic skills that led to such a great achievement and make the promise that another Netanyahu-led government would bring even greater spoils.
But were Blue and White to oppose territorial annexations for fear of giving Netanyahu such a huge political victory, it could have even worse electoral consequences.
Gantz and his party have been extremely anxious to avoid any semblance of appearing left-wing in any way, given the right-wing zeitgeist in the country in terms of security and the lack of trust of the Israeli public in the commitment of the Palestinians to peace and nonviolence.
Israeli security policy in the event of the establishment of a Palestinian state has long been predicated on preserving control of the Jordan Valley and its border with Jordan.
Were Gantz to refrain from annexing that region, Netanyahu and the right wing would lambaste him for failing to take the opportunity to permanently secure Israel’s eastern border and guarantee the safety of the state for the future.
It would be an electoral catastrophe.
It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will in fact put a six-week deadline on Israel to adopt the deal. But should it do so, it would surely put Gantz between a rock and hard place politically.
Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century could end up being an electoral calamity for Gantz and Blue and White.