Netanyahu Says He Doesn’t Know Where Gantz Stands on Annexation

YERUSHALAYIM -
A traffic sign is pictured in front of the Israeli city of Maale Adumim, one of the areas likely to be included in any extension of Israeli sovereignty. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

The path toward annexation remained murky on Monday, as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ characterized the position of his Blue and White coalition partners as unclear.

“We are in talks with the Americans, we want their agreement for the entire matter…We held two discussions with Blue and White. I don’t know what their stance is. We want to finish the mapping,” PM Netanyahu said at a Likud faction meeting.

On Sunday, he met for several hours with Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, with U.S. Ambassador David Friedman moderating, in an attempt to work out a specific timetable for annexation, which the coalition agreement says can be advanced as early as July 1. However, the meeting ended without any clear results.

Netanyahu also said the Trump plan will not be brought to a vote in the cabinet or Knesset; rather, it will be used as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians, if they agree to talks.

The prime minister indicated that sovereignty could be carried out incrementally in some of the Jewish communities of Yehudah and Shomron, as opposed to the plan’s scenario of taking over 30% of the region, including all Jewish areas and the Jordan Valley at one time, according to Channel 13 News, reporting on a meeting Sunday with former IDF officers.

In that meeting, Netanyahu confirmed reports that the Trump Administration has conditioned its approval for annexation on the support of Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Netanyahu also insisted that the plan is “not annexation, it is applying sovereignty,” and said that “construction will not be frozen in existing settlements.”

Meanwhile, the Likud refused to allow Yesha leader David Elhayani to attend its faction meeting to register his objections to the peace plan. Elhayani was rebuked by Netanyahu and other Likud officials for asserting last week that the plan, which includes provision for a Palestinian state, shows that “Donald Trump is no friend of Israel.”

But the Yamina part demonstrated it is a friend of David Elhayani, inviting him to their meeting instead.

“A right-wing party cannot refuse to host the representatives of the settlements who are currently sensing a real danger to their life’s work,” Yamina said in a statement.