Netanyahu hint annexation of West Bank won’t begin on July 1 as he’d pledged

UN rights chief says Israeli annexation plans ‘illegal’

Gantz: Anything not related to ‘fight against the coronavirus can wait’

Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted to Likud lawmakers during today’s (Yesterday) faction meeting that Israel will not begin moving forward with annexing parts of the West Bank on July 1, as he has repeatedly pledged, the Kan public broadcaster reports.

“I have a positive and topical line of communication with the Americans and when I have something to report, I’ll report [it],” Netanyahu is quoted as saying by the public broadcaster.

“This is a complicated process with lots of diplomatic and security considerations that I can’t get into. We said that [annexation] would be after July 1.”

Israel’s aim to annex parts of the West Bank is clearly “illegal,” the UN’s human rights chief says, warning that the consequences could be “disastrous.” AFP reported

“Annexation is illegal. Period,” Michelle Bachelet says in a statement, adding that “the shockwaves of annexation will last for decades, and will be extremely damaging to Israel, as well as to the Palestinians.”

Similarly, in a related development, the head of the left-wing Meretz party issues strong criticism of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, accusing him of acting on his own initiative to push Israel to annex parts of the West Bank.

“Besides the US Ambassador David Friedman… no one understands the obsession with annexation,” MK Nitzan Horowitz says at the start of a Knesset faction meeting.

“This is an issue in which Ambassador Friedman only represents himself,” Horowitz adds.

Citing the coronavirus pandemic and accompanying economic fallout, the Meretz chief says, “of course for Americans, just as for Israelis, annexation is at the bottom of the list of priorities.”

“What needs to be done now is to deal with the economy and allow people to live, and to abandon the madness of annexation,” Horowitz adds.

According to reports, Friedman is pushing for Israel to swiftly move forward with extending sovereignty over West Bank lands designated for the Jewish state under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, but other administration officials have reservations about the move.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says “whatever isn’t connected to the fight against the coronavirus can wait,” appearing to urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to put off his pledge to begin annexing parts of the West Bank this week.

In remarks at a Knesset faction meeting, Gantz warns “the fight against the coronavirus will be long,” which he says is why his Blue and White party agreed to form a government with Netanyahu’s Likud.

“It’s not enough to thinks weeks. It won’t be helpful. We must think at least a year,” he says, without elaborating.

While applauding the government’s move to address the pandemic and accompanying economic problems, Gantz says the decision yesterday to extend eligibility for unemployment benefits to mid-August isn’t enough.

“But let’s be honest, this is only a Band-aid that doesn’t really stop the bleeding for long,” he says.

Ending his remarks, Gantz vows Israel will beat the coronavirus.

“Whatever isn’t connected to the fight against the coronavirus can wait for the days after the virus,” he says.

However,  Netanyahu reportedly informed the Likud lawmakers that he is working “discreetly” with US President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace team to advance Israeli annexation of West Bank lands, according to a party spokesperson, adding that the issue doesn’t depend on Blue and White. 

"They’re not a factor one way or another,” Netanyahu says during the Likud faction meeting. “We’re in contact with the American team, which is here in Israel. We’re doing this discreetly,” he says.

Under his coalition deal with Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, Netanyahu can begin extending sovereignty of parts of the West Bank on July 1, which he has repeatedly pledged to. 

However, Gantz has signalled opposition to the move and Netanyahu has given few hints about his plans.


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