3 former top IDF officers said to reject Gantz offer to oversee annexation plans

Defense minister reportedly offered post to 2 ex-central command chiefs and a previous head of military ops, but none wanted the politics-laden job

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/ Pool/ AFP)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/ Pool/ AFP)

Three former senior military officers reportedly all turned down an offer from Defense Minister Benny Gantz to lead an administrative headquarters overseeing Israel’s planned annexation of territory in the West Bank.

Major generals (Ret.) Roni Numa and Avi Mizrahi both headed the Israel Defense Forces Central Command, and Major General (Ret.) Yaacov Ayish was formerly head of the IDF Operations Branch and Israel’s military attache to the US.

All have extensive experience in the West Bank.

The three officers were put off because the position is so political and because some of them have ties to the security industry through private companies, the report said, apparently creating a conflict of interest, Channel 12 reported Wednesday night.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Avi Mizrahi speaks during a Blue and White party election campaign event in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2019. (Gili Yaari /Flash90)

According to the report there is still no formal central headquarters assessing the possible outcomes of applying sovereignty.

As a result, the report said there is no groundwork being done on what the response could be in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or in Jordan and Egypt.

Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing to swiftly move ahead with the annexation, Gantz, who is also alternate prime minister under the coalition government agreement, is reportedly reluctant to proceed.

Under a coalition deal between Netanyahu and Gantz signed last month, the government can pursue annexation of all the settlements and the Jordan Valley — the 30 percent of the West Bank allocated to Israel under the peace plan rolled out by US President Donald Trump’s administration — from July 1. The Trump administration has indicated it will not oppose Netanyahu’s declared plans to do so, providing Israel accepts its “Peace to Prosperity” plan, which conditionally provides for a Palestinian state on the remaining 70% of the territory.

Then head of the IDF Central Command Major General Roni Numa at a ceremony at the Soldiers Corner in Gush Etzion junction, in the West Bank, December 13, 2017. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Talks this week between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White are said to have revealed significant disagreements between the parties on the size of the territory to be annexed, the schedule for implementing the move, and the order of the steps that should be taken.

US officials have reportedly told Netanyahu that the Trump administration will only support the extension of Israeli law to West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley if details of the plan are agreed on between the two parties.

Blue and White officials have said that they cannot present a position on the plan, as the premier has thus far failed to outline it clearly.

Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, left, landing in Israel and greeted by Major General Yaacov Ayish, Israel Defense and Armed Forces Attache to the US, June 8, 2015. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Netanyahu associates are said to fear that if the parties don’t find a middle ground soon, the White House will lose interest in the move and it will be taken off the agenda.

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