Netanyahu Aides Fear U.S. May Drop Annexation if PM Can’t Reach Deal With Gantz

In the most recent Likud-Kahol Lavan discussions about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s annexation plan, wide gaps have emerged between the sides. At the beginning of the week, Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Knesset Speaker Yarin Levin met with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The primary dispute, over the size of the territory to be annexed and the timeline for doing so, also touched on the order in which steps will be taken.

– LISTEN: How Netanyahu could fudge annexation, hoodwink Gantz and cling on to power

LISTEN: How Netanyahu could fudge annexation, hoodwink Gantz and cling on to power

Netanyahu sought at the meetings to start dealing with the map that will detail the territories to be annexed. Gantz, on the other hand, who said recently that he hadn’t examined the annexation map, stressed the need to come to understandings with Arab countries that have ties with Israel, especially Egypt and Jordan. The prime minister’s associates fear missing an opportunity; if the two parties don’t succeed in reaching an agreement soon, the U.S. administration will lose interest, and the annexation issue will drop off the agenda. Sources involved in the contacts told Haaretz that the gaps between Likud and Kahol Lavan are large and at this point it will be difficult to bridge them.

Moreover, in Israel there is a growing feeling that the annexation process will accentuate the disputes over Israeli policy between the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States. The presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, has publicly expressed opposition to annexation. If the Democrats win the November presidential election, annexation will put the Netanyahu government on a collision course with the new Biden administration.

In the more left-wing branch of the Democratic party, whose most prominent representative is Sen. Bernie Sanders, there is even support for punishing Israel for such a move. It’s possible that party members will seek to discuss American recognition of a Palestinian state, or even make changes to the defense aid agreement with Israel, though Biden and his men have rejected the latter.

The Democratic party is united in its opposition to annexing the settlements. More than 60 percent of Democratic senators have either issued statements to this effect, or sent letters objecting to annexation to Netanyahu and Gantz, and the number is expected to grow. The opposition is not just coming from the “usual suspects” – Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and members of the party’s left – but also from firm supporters of Israel, senators and House members from the moderate wing of the party considered close to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying organization.