Gantz’s Comments on Palestinians Shatter Left-wing Hopes He Will Halt Annexation

Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz won’t put a halt to the West Bank annexation plan. If anyone on the left still harbored any illusions on that score, they were disabused of them on Tuesday. Gantz doesn’t intend to sacrifice his own skin to stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On the contrary. Speaking to defense reporters on Tuesday, Gantz sounded like he was just going with the flow for Netanyahu, even looking to justify the prime minister’s policies.

Zoom With Us! Join Haaretz reporters for a live Q&A on annexation this Sunday, June 28. Add it to your Google calendar or RSVP on Facebook

– Bibi Eyes ‘Annexation Lite’ as Pandemic Panic Returns

LISTEN: Bibi Eyes ‘Annexation Lite’ as Pandemic Panic Returns

Through three Knesset election campaigns, which all ended indecisively, Gantz, the leader of the Kahol Lavan party, took relatively hawkish positions on the Palestinian issue. Some people attributed this to his efforts to court right-wing voters. But it apparently went much deeper.

In the course of this week’s press briefing, he expressed full support for U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan, which provides for Israeli annexation of up to 30 percent of the West Bank, as well as a Palestinian state. Gantz did make a non-binding statement about the two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, but he accused them of attempting to drag Israel into “deep shit,” a term Netanyahu would have been unlikely to utter, as he is more concerned with the “deep state.”

A week before the July 1 target date in the coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud party and Kahol Lavan for the beginning of deliberations on annexation, the deputy prime minister, who is also defense minister, doesn’t really know what the annexation maps will look like. For that matter, senior Israeli military officers have yet to see a single binding map, and Netanyahu has not yet consulted with professionals in the defense establishment.

The objections and concerns of senior defense officials have not been discussed in detail by the cabinet or the security cabinet. The concerns include a possible violent escalation in the West Bank; a confrontation with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where according to comments on Tuesday by army chief Aviv Kochavi, an outbreak of fighting is possible; a rift with Jordan; and worsening ties with the Gulf states.

On Tuesday evening, Channel 12 News reported serious differences between Netanyahu and Gantz over annexation. But Gantz’s tone and his actual comments confirm the assumption that there will be no life-and-death battle here. Gantz knows that the final decision is not up to him, but rather up to Netanyahu.

An activist holds a sign at the anti-annexation protest in Rabin Square, June 23, 2020. Tomer Appelbaum

The outcome will be determined in accordance with Netanyahu’s understandings with Trump, as well as with the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, actually. Kushner more than Trump knows about what’s on the agenda, and apparently he is more attuned to what is happening in Israel.