Israel’s prime minister-in-waiting and ruling coalition partner Benny Gantz reportedly wants a plan by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex parts of the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley shelved.
Netanyahu had set July 1 as the date for the start of cabinet discussions on the annexation plan. But those discussions did not begin, amid openly expressed differences between Netanyahu and key members of his cabinet.
Netanyahu has been driven ahead by President Donald Trump of the United States, who unveiled a plan for the Middle East in January that effectively sidelines the Palestinians.
Last month, Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party and is serving currently as the Israeli minister of military affairs, suggested that the annexation plan should be postponed while Israel is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.
Two Israeli cabinet ministers said on Friday that Gantz called for the shelving of the annexation plan and focusing instead on improving conditions for settlers, Reuters reported.
Netanyahu and his former election rival Gantz struck a deal in April to form a joint cabinet, averting what would have been a fourth consecutive Israeli election due to failed attempts to form a coalition in just over a year.
Under the three-year coalition pact, Netanyahu will be prime minister for 18 months and Gantz will replace him afterwards.
Alon Schuster, Israel’s agriculture minister and a member of Gantz’s party, said on Friday that he was working to achieve “cultivation and not annexation, now” for West Bank farmers.
“We need to bring water to the Jordan Valley — for both the Israelis and the Palestinians who live there, by the way — and to improve electricity,” Schuster told Tel Aviv radio station 102 FM, according to Reuters.
Another minister from Blue and White said this was also Gantz’ approach, and that the party chief believed that working on West Bank infrastructure shared by settlers and Palestinians would match Trump’s plan.
The Palestinians have dismissed Trump’s plan altogether because it meets almost none of their long-held demands for statehood.
The Palestinians want the occupied West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital. Trump’s plan envisions Jerusalem al-Quds as “Israel’s undivided capital” and allows the Tel Aviv regime to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. The plan also denies Palestinian refugees the right of return to their homeland, among other controversial terms.
Israel’s unlawful annexation push has drawn widespread criticisms from the entire international community, including the regime’s closest allies.
The United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), and some Arab countries have all said annexation would violate international law and undermine the prospects of establishing a sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 boundaries.