Gantz on Annexation: Palestinians ‘In Deep Shit,’ Israel ‘Won’t Keep Waiting for Them’

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that Israel "won't keep waiting for the Palestinians" if they refuse to hold talks on the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank, as part of U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East plan.

“We won’t get into the Palestinians' deep shit,” Gantz told a press briefing at the military's headquarters in Tel Aviv. “The Palestinians continue to reject dialogue and to remain in their ‘deep shit.’”

Gantz, who in the past publicly backed dialogue with the Palestinians toward an agreement leading to a two-state solution, said the Israeli government should “not only to manage the conflict but shape it as well.” And if the Palestinians choose not to hold talks with Israel about the annexation, “then we will have to move forward without them,” he said.

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Gantz said he would work to minimize the prospect of Israel becoming a binational Jewish-Arab country while at the same time  working to safeguard Israel's security, in close consulation with the United States and other countries, as well as with the Palestinians, "to the extent that they wish to be part of the discussions."

Senior defense officials have expressed reservations about unilateral annexation. Israeli annexation of up to 30 percent of the West Bank is an element of the Trump administration's peace plan that was made public in January, which also calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Final maps of what that 30 per cent would include have not been finalized between Israel and the United States, but would encompass all of the Jewish settlements in the territory as well as the Jordan Valley.

Gantz has taken the approach that even if the annexation takes place, it won’t change anything on the ground or the routines of Palestinians or Israelis living in the West Bank. The advantage of annexation, as Gantz sees it, is mainly the prospect that it could break the diplomatic deadlock between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

“We will not take Palestinians into our territory. We will not violate human rights or freedom of movement. We will operate in coordination with all of the countries in the region with which we are in contact," Gantz said. "We will not endanger any peace treaties, and we will carry out an orderly process vis-a-vis the army, military officials and in terms of policy and the security cabinet. We are involved and are deeply exerting our influence on this issue," Gantz added.