Israeli security officials will finally be shown maps next week of West Bank territories Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing to annex, according to a television report Friday.
Israel’s security forces have been mostly left in the dark about Netanyahu’s plans to extend sovereignty over West Bank lands designated for the Jewish state under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, hampering their ability to plan accordingly.
The maps that will be shown to military and other security agencies are the same ones Netanyahu presented to Defense Minister Benny Gantz this week, Channel 12 news reported.
The network said that under all four of the scenarios for annexation detailed in the maps, Israel would extend territory over most of the settlements and a total of anywhere from 12 to 30 percent of the West Bank. A television report Wednesday, by contrast, had said one of the options floated by Netanyahu would see Israel annex only a small part of the West Bank in a largely symbolic move.
In a separate report, Channel 13 news said IDF generals told Gantz during meetings this week they will need several weeks once a final decision on annexation is made to prepare security-wise. Quoting unnamed officials who took part in the meetings, the report said the preparations would include calling up reservists and deploying forces, among other measures.
The officials also said they would need several months to prepare the “civil” aspects of annexation, noting the potential legal complications of annexing any settlements built on private Palestinian land. Other possible complexities cited by the officials were having to alter the route of the West Bank security barrier and determining if Palestinians who own farmland in the Jordan Valley but live elsewhere will be able to access their lands.
“These are only a few small examples. There are dozens or hundreds of problematic civil matters that come up only when you start thinking about annexation. All these matters requiring the formulation of policy and decision-making,” the officials were quoted saying by the network.
In its report, Channel 13 also said Netanyahu and Gantz held further talks Friday on annexation, but did not make any progress toward reaching an agreement. The two have met several times in recent days to discuss the matter, 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 agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White, the premier can begin moving forward with extending sovereignty over some 30% of the West Bank, covering all the 132 settlements and the Jordan Valley, on July 1, which he has pledged repeatedly to do. Netanyahu has said US support for annexation represents a historic opportunity, and the US has indicated that it will not oppose Israeli annexation but has lately signaled ambivalence about the timing of such a move.
The 30% represents the territory allocated to Israel under the Trump administration peace plan unveiled in January, which is intended to serve as a basis for a negotiated deal with the Palestinians, but which the Palestinians have preemptively rejected.
While Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, a member of Blue and White, have backed Trump’s peace plan, they have signaled opposition to annexing lands unilaterally.
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.
Jordan King Abdullah this week deemed unilateral annexation “unacceptable” in briefings this week to American lawmakers, and is expected to withdraw his ambassador, downgrade ties with Israel and reconsider the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty if Netanyahu goes ahead. Abdullah also said he was trying to persuade Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to enter negotiations with Israel, however, and Jordan’s foreign minister this week reportedly told Abbas in Ramallah to telephone US President Donald Trump to explain his opposition to unilateral Israeli annexation.