1. Annex another day: Exactly five months after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s talk of immediate annexation of parts of the West Bank failed to come to fruition, another self-imposed date for annexation is upon us, though it seems pretty clear that whatever happens, it won’t match the hopes and dreams of the premier’s right-wing supporters. Expectations among the general public are so low, in fact, that as the sun rises on Wednesday morning, many news sites lead off with other news, from the coronavirus to Netanyahu’s attacks on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.
- Channel 12 news calls the possibility of virus lockdowns on dozens of cities “The central story of the day.” It also reports on people who found a porcupine in their bedroom. The virus story leads the Haaretz broadsheet in Hebrew (the hedgehog does not make the cut).
- Yedioth Ahronoth’s annexation package stretches to all of three pages, most of which is taken up by a milquetoast op-ed from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking out against annexation.
- “I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties,” he writes.
- Channel 12 news notes that July 1 was demarcated as a “target date,” by the US peace plan, but the channel asks “a target for what exactly?”
- “I assume there won’t be anything regarding annexation today,” Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi tells Army Radio, admitting he does not know for sure.
2. July? You lie! Even Israel Hayom is curbing its enthusiasm somewhat, it seems.
- “Sovereignty time,” reads the top headline of the Netanyahu-backing paper, which appears to cherish annexation plans even more than its beloved prime minister. The headline is accompanied by a picture of a girl waving an Israeli flag as she looks out into the seemingly deserted Jordan Valley, and indeed you have to squint to find any evidence of Palestinian habitation anywhere in the tabloid’s seven pages of coverage, a reflection of the old “people without a land for a land without a people” canard.
- But even that paper’s Ariel Kahana admits that “July 1 is a start date, not an end,” giving Jerusalem two months to get ‘er done.
- “The Americans and Netanyahu both see July-August as the time window to carry out the step. So today will see a statement or announcement, but no government decision or Knesset bill,” he writes.
- Walla News reports that settler leaders as well don’t expect any groundbreaking moves on Wednesday, and are losing faith the promised annexation will ever happen. The news site quotes Yesha settler council head David Elhayani comparing the situation to “someone who wants to get married, makes the preparations, invites guests, meets the parents — and doesn’t do anything.”
- Haaretz quotes Elhayani saying that there is an 80 percent chance nothing will happen, and says he is not alone.
- “There is a chance that ultimately nothing will happen,” Etzion Bloc Regional Council Head Shlomo Ne’eman is quoted saying.
- “Sovereignty day? Still consulting,” reads the top headline in pro-settler outlet Israel National News, with others also reporting that Netanyahu’s comment Tuesday that he is continuing to work with the US team on annexation as a strong hint that July 1 won’t see any major annexation moves.
3. How far they’ll go: We may know what won’t happen on July 1, but the question still remains regarding what annexation-type moves Israel will eventually pursue, if any.
- Walla News reports that for now, beset by pressures inside and out, Netanyahu is expected to concentrate on only annexing large settlements or blocs such as the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, and Maaleh Adumim east of the capital, as well as possibly Beit El or Shiloh, both of which are near Ramallah, “to get a foothold deep in the territory.”
- “Netanyahu started with 30 percent, but he understands he needs to climb down from that. The question is how to not end up on the ground level and to actually do something,” the site quotes a source familiar with discussions in Jerusalem and Washington saying.
- The Kan broadcaster publishes what it says is a map of what Israel would ideally like to annex, which it says expands the access areas to isolated settlements and grants Palestinians some blobs of land as “compensation.” The ensuing monstrosity looks like something Jackson Pollock might puke onto a ninja turtle.
- Unmentioned by the channel is the fact that the map also extends the area the Palestinians would get beyond the Green Line in the northern West Bank, i.e., residents of Arab towns in those areas would become Palestinian. The “transfer” idea had been included in the original Trump proposal, but was swiftly pooh-poohed by Netanyahu after an outcry.
- “From conversations with sources involved in discussions it’s clear to the Americans as well that there won’t be a full or broad annexation but just something partial,” reports Army Radio.
- Channel 12 news reports that the Americans are pushing Israel to compensate the Palestinians with something to make up for the move. “If the right wing knew what the Americans wanted in exchange for annexation, they would be less enthusiastic,” it quotes a diplomatic source saying.
4. It lives: The reason for nothing happening on July 1 is widely attributed to both internal squabbles between Netanyahu and his government partners from Blue and White, who insist on involving the Palestinians and others, and the US insistence on the Israeli government at least agreeing on an annexation plan before it gives it its backing.
- Analyst Ofer Zalzberg tells Arab News that Netanyahu won’t only seek to convince Benny Gantz and co. to come along for the ride, but may try to bypass them altogether. “It is true no annexation will take place on July 1, but it is too early to celebrate. Israel will return to the White House to see if US presidential adviser Jared Kushner will agree to allow Netanyahu to push through the annexation without the support of the Blue and White Party,” he says.
- Minister Ofir Akunis says to Army Radio that he thinks Israel could have just annexed everything on July 1, but it needs to get the American okay first. The need for “American cooperation cannot be discounted,” he says.
- Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev writes that Netanyahu’s annexation drive will throw Israel’s name into the toilet and risk its standing internationally, including with the US should the Democrats win.
- “Conservatives and right-wingers may rally around Netanyahu’s annexation banner, but more moderate supporters will be further disillusioned and those that have already started to stray will be pushed away completely,” he writes. “Annexation will accelerate the distancing of the Democratic Party from Israel, giving aid and succor to its more radical anti-Israeli wing.”
- A lead editorial in the Guardian warns that “the consequences for Israel and its neighbours are far-reaching and potentially calamitous,” and urges London and Europe to take action.
- “There is a precedent: the sanctions imposed on Russia over the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol. Be they diplomatic or economic, real consequences are now required.”
5. Angry, but not that angry (yet): Channel 13 news reports that the army is not expecting any big bust-ups in the West Bank with Palestinians protesting annexation “and has decided not to beef up forces until there is a decision from the political leadership.”
- However, it also notes that “protests and rallies are expected in the West Bank, though they are not expected to get out of control.”
- According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Hamas is planning a march in Gaza from Gaza City, to the sea, and not toward the border fence with Israel, which is its usual destination when it wants to show displeasure and start a donnybrook.
- “It seems Hamas chose this protest to avoid confrontations with Israel near the fence since no dramatic annexation announcement is expected,” the paper says.
- After some Gazans report on Twitter about rockets fired into the sea overnight, the Hebrew-language press picks it up and labels the launches a “warning message.”
- Interestingly, reports in both Hamas-linked media and other Palestinian outlets attribute the reporting of the launches to Israeli media.
- Ynet journalist Elior Levy shares a video of what he says is the launch, but later apologizes after it is pointed out to him that the video is from 2018, though he says a launch did still occur, according to his sources. Nonetheless the damage is done, and the video is shared around and featured on Hebrew-language websites as footage of the barrage.
בדיקה מחודשת העלתה שהסרטון שעלה ברשתות אינו קשור לשיגור המטח הזה. זה סרטון משנת 2018. עשיתי שוב בדיקה מול עזה והוצלב לי מכמה מקורות שהוכיחו אמינותם שמטח כן היה.
התנצלותי באשר לסרטון. https://t.co/BKdRG19R4n
— Elior Levy • אליאור לוי (@eliorlevy) July 1, 2020
- Walla reports that the IDF says it did not identify any launches into the sea overnight and knows nothing about the reports.
- Israel Hayom, reporting from Ramallah, claims that Palestinians are more worried about the coronavirus than annexation. “People are sick of all the fighting, they want to get up in the morning, work, and provide for their families,” the paper quotes one Palestinian merchant in Ramallah saying.
- Jordan’s King Abdullah, who has been amid the harshest critics of annexation, would apparently be happy to see such indifference in his kingdom as well. Israeli journalist Yoni Ben Menahem tweets that Abdullah has forbidden any protests against annexation: “He has also forbidden MPs from holding unsanctioned conferences against annexation and Jordanian journalists from publishing pieces which could lead to an escalation in the security situation in Jordan vis-a-vis the expected annexation.”