PM said to present Gantz with 4 annexation options, including only symbolic move

PM said to present Gantz with 4 annexation options, including only symbolic move

TV report says proposals floated by Netanyahu range from 30% of the West Bank to small section, but Blue and White wary; UAE crown prince: We are working against this illegal move

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Knesset, May 17, 2020. (Alex Kolomoisky/Pool)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly presented Defense Minister Benny Gantz with four scenarios for annexing West Bank lands, ranging from a symbolic move all the way to extending sovereignty over all areas slated for Israel under the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Netanyahu and Gantz met Wednesday for further talks on planned annexation ahead of July 1, when the premier has pledged to begin moving forward with annexing parts of the West Bank. Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin also took part in the meeting.

Quoting a senior official briefed on the meeting, Channel 13 news reported that Netanyahu and Levin showed Gantz and Ashkenazi maps detailing the areas Israel would annex under four possible scenarios.

This included annexing the roughly 30 percent of the West Bank US President Donald Trump’s peace proposal designates for Israel — covering the Jordan Valley and all 132 settlements — or only a small symbolic chunk of it. The report did not provide further details on the different scenarios.

Gantz and Ashkenazi stressed during the meeting that they oppose annexing lands where large numbers of Palestinians live, and that any Palestinians in the annexed areas should be offered citizenship, according to various Hebrew media reports. They reiterated that annexation should not be unilateral but part of a broader diplomatic move that would include benefits for the Palestinians, the Channel 13 report said.

The official said the meeting ended without any significant process and that further talks would be held in the coming days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, center, and then-Tourism Minister Yariv Levin during a meeting to discuss mapping extension of Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank, held in the Ariel settlement, February 24, 2020. (David Azagury/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Netanyahu and Gantz have met several times this week to discuss annexation, including for talks attended by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. According to recent Hebrew media reports, the US administration wants Gantz to be on board with any annexation move.

Under the coalition deal between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White, Netanyahu can begin annexing settlements and the Jordan Valley from July 1. The Trump administration has indicated it will not oppose Netanyahu’s declared plans to do so, providing Israel accepts its peace plan, which conditionally provides for a Palestinian state on the remaining 70% of the territory.

Netanyahu’s vows to push ahead with unilateral annexation have been condemned internationally, with European and Arab states, as well as senior members of the US Democratic Party, warning the Israeli government against doing so.

The issue has threatened to upend years of diplomatic work forging quiet ties between Israel and Gulf states.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia on June 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)

Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the United Arab Emirates’ powerful crown prince and de facto ruler, said Wednesday he discussed the matter with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

“I assured King Abdullah in our phone conversation of UAE’s full solidarity with Jordan & our categorical rejection of accepting Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian lands. We are working with our Arab brethren & the international community against this illegal move,” the crown prince wrote on Twitter.

His comments came after Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s influential ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, warned last week in a Hebrew op-ed published in an Israeli paper that Abu Dhabi would freeze normalization if annexation moves ahead.

Other Gulf states have remained mostly quiet about annexation, though an Israeli diplomatic official told Army Radio Monday that ties with these countries would be set back by annexation moves.

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