After Gantz Pours Cold Water on Annexation, Netanyahu Says Issue Not Up to Him

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that the issue of annexation is not up to alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz's party, after Gantz hinted that Netanyahu's annexation plan may not begin on the target July 1 start date.

His comments at a Likud party meeting came shortly after Gantz said that anything unrelated to the coronavirus can wait, and hours after Gantz told U.S. President Donald Trump's envoys that "July 1 is not a sacred date."

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"We are in contact with the American team here in Israel," Netanyahu said at a Likud meeting. "We are doing so discretely. The issue is not up to [Gantz's party] Kahol Lavan. They are not a factor either way."

Earlier on Monday, Gantz met with Trump's special envoy Avi Berkowitz and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to discuss the Trump administration's peace plan.

According to sources in Gantz's party, he told them that the target date of July 1 "is not a sacred date." According to Gantz, before moving forward with annexation, "people must be returned to their jobs and the coronavirus must be dealt with."

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz at a cabinet meeting in the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 21, 2020.Marc Israel Sellem

Gantz added that the battle against the coronavirus would be long, “and that's exactly why Kahol Lavan, together with Likud, established this unity government and prevented a fourth election."  

According to sources, Gantz said in the meeting that Trump's peace plan "is a historic move that constitutes the right and the best framework for promoting peace in the Middle East." He added that the plan must move forward together with "the strategic partners in the region and the Palestinians, and reach an outline that benefits all sides proportionally, responsibly and reciprocally."