Netanyahu says Gantz has no power to delay Israel's West Bank annexation plan

Netanyahu says Gantz has no power to delay Israel's West Bank annexation plan
Netanyahu has dismissed comments from his coalition partner that the Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank will be delayed.
3 min read
30 June, 2020
Benny Gantz appeared to be challenging Netanyahu’s plan. [Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the plan to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank on 1 July is not "up to" the coalition partner Benny Gantz, who on Monday appeared to challenge the government's timeline for the controversial land grab.

"We are in contact with the American team here in Israel. We are doing so discreetly. The issue is not up to [Gantz's party] Blue and White. They are not a factor either way," Netanyahu said, challenging the authority of Gantz's party which is currently in a governing coalition with the prime minister's Likud.

This comes after Defense Minister and alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said in a televised meeting with his Blue and White party that "anything that is not related to the coronavirus will wait".

"People must be returned to their jobs and the coronavirus must be dealt with", he added, as Israel and the occupied West Bank deal with hundreds of new Covid-19 infections a day.

This was hours before he contradicted statements by his coalition partner, Netanyahu, telling US envoy Avi Berkowitz that "July 1 is not a sacred date".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government had set 1 July as the date from which it could initiate action on US President Donald Trump's controversial "Deal of the Century" peace deal, which has been outright rejected by the Palestinian Authority.

The deal would allow Israel to annex one third of Palestinian land in the West Bank, something widely condemned by the international community and would make a viable independent Palestinian state unworkable.

The Trump plan paves the way for more Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law, which have caused outrage throughout the international community.

Under the terms of a coalition deal with Gantz, Netanyahu can initiate action on annexation either through the cabinet or through the Knesset (parliament).

In the cabinet, Gantz would have a veto but a Knesset bill would only need a simple majority to pass.

Read more: Israeli annexation and a history of broken American promises

Annexation is just one part of Trump's plan, which also calls for the creation of a demilitarised Palestinian state, largely encircled by Israel, with a capital outside of Jerusalem, going against the demands of Palestinians and the international community.

Gantz fought Netanyahu tooth and nail in three inconclusive elections within 12 months.

The rivals eventually agreed on an unwieldy centre-right coalition with each man holding equal status and bearing the newly-minted title "alternate prime minister".

Gantz, a former army chief, is under the terms of the coalition deal due to take over as prime minister in November 2021, with Netanyahu serving as his alternate.

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