There is big news from Israel today. Benny Gantz, the man who for three elections tried to retire Netanyahu, has surrendered. Benjamin Netanyahu will be prime minister for the next 18 months, which will include a corruption trial; Gantz will then become prime minister, and the power-sharing deal is said to OK annexation of large portions of the occupied West Bank beginning in July.
Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 13 explains the deal on annexation. Israeli politics are just too right wing for Gantz to have held the line. This is Netanyahu’s “legacy” and he needs to do it while Trump is in power:
The coalition deal between Netanyahu & Gantz says Netanyahu can bring “the understandings with the Trump administration” on the annexation of parts of the West Bank to a discussion in the cabinet & to a vote either in the cabinet or in the Knesset starting from July 1st…Netanyahu’s wish to annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the occupied West Bank was one of the main sticking points in the negotiations on the new government. Gantz gave up on his demand to have a veto power over any decision on annexation..
According to the deal Netanyahu and Gantz will work “in full agreement with the U.S.” regarding the Trump plan including on the issue of mapping the parts in the West Bank the U.S. is ready to recognize as part of Israel..
Netanyahu sees the annexation of parts of the West Bank as his main legacy. According to his aides he wants to implement it enough time before the presidential elections in the U.S. fearing Trump might lose and the move will not be possible if Joe Biden is in the White House…
The next Israeli gov’ will be a dangerous right wing one. Gantz entered the field hoping to replace Netanyahu and ended up strengthening the latter’s racist and anti-democratic politics. We will lead the opposition to this annexation gov’ – during the Covid crisis and after it.
Palestinian politicians were the big winners of the last election; and are empowered by the news. Joint List head Ayman Odeh writes on twitter [Hebrew, automated translation]:
Gantz’s surrender is a slap in the face to the civilian who repeatedly goes to the ballot box to oust Netanyahu. Gantz was not brave enough to win and chose to legalize annexation, racism and corruption.
Joint List lawmaker, and doctor, Ahmad Tibi:
Blue and White [Gantz’s party] waved a white flag. It surrendered to all political dictates (annexation in July), and in the civil sphere it surrendered to the National Law, the Kaminitz Law [limiting Palestinian building permits]… We will see in the fight against the government of 52 ministers and deputy ministers a challenge and mission. I feel the loss of millions of citizens who want change.
Annexation is understood to mean about 30 percent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements that include more than 620,000 colonists.
Israel lobbyist Martin Indyk says Trump will lie down for annexation to satisfy the American Christian right:
Coronavirus or not… this much is clear: Trump will greenlight the annexation to secure his Evangelical base going into the election.
Indyk leaves out Trump’s Florida game: the Jewish voters who can be crucial in that swing state.
The conventional wisdom is that this deal will be a test for liberal Zionist organizations in the U.S. to oppose annexation now, and recruit Democratic politicians here against it. Note that last week such an initiative resulted in 11 congresspeople writing a letter opposing annexation. Not exactly a groundswell. But J Street lately endorsed Joe Biden and he welcomed the endorsement; he is sure to take a stance against annexation.
The liberal Zionist orgs will have to work with Palestinians politicians if they aim to block annexation.
Israel Policy Forum beseeches the new Israeli government not to act.
We are disappointed that Benny Gantz has agreed to this step as a condition for forming a unity government, not least because it is a departure from his previous statements and stances on the subject of West Bank annexation. We hope that the new Israeli government closely examines the potential consequences of unilateral annexation and the deleterious impact it will have on Israeli security and diplomacy and that it heeds the warnings against unilateral annexation that have come from Israeli security experts, the United States Congress, the European Union, foreign policy experts, and American Jewish leaders.
Israel supporter Tamara Cofman Wittes says hopefully that facts on the ground won’t mean a thing to a Biden administration…
Trump’s green light does not end the issue. Presidential recognition of territorial claims are a matter of executive discretion that can be immediately reversed by a new administration.
h/t Yossi Gurvitz