Addressing a meeting of Likud members of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) on June 29, Monday, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that the proposed annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank will not begin on July 1, as announced earlier.
“This is a complicated process with lots of diplomatic and security considerations that I can’t get into. We said that [annexation] would be after July 1,” Netanyahu told his party colleagues, according to Israel’s public broadcaster KAN News.
This is considered a sudden shift by Netanyahu, who had only earlier in the day dismissed his coalition partner Benny Gantz’s opposition to the timing of the annexation. Gantz is the defence minister and the “alternative prime minister” of Israel, as per the coalition agreement between Netanyahu’s Likud-led alliance and Gantz Blue and White alliance.
Addressing his party colleagues, Gantz had said,“what is not corona related will wait until the day after the virus.” He also said that July 1 is not a “sacred” date, and that the annexation should be postponed.
Netanyahu had responded by saying that the annexation move did not depend on Gantz’s support and that the government is in “talks with the US team here in Israel [about it]”, in which Blue and White is not a factor.
According to the health minister, Israel is entering the second phase of COVID-19 outbreak. On Monday, Israel recorded 686 fresh cases and one death, bringing the total tally of infections to 24, 441, with 319 deaths. Following the surge, the government reimposed some of the restrictions lifted earlier and issued fresh guidelines restricting public gatherings, on Monday.
After assuming power in May, Netanyahu had announced that Israel will start the process of extending Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the illegal settlements inside the occupied West Bank from July 1. Netanyahu has claimed to be acting in accordance with US president Donald Trump’s so-called ‘deal of the century’, which proposes 30% territory of the occupied West Bank to be given to Israel in exchange for an independent Palestinian state. Though the Palestinians and most of the world community have rejected the plan as unilateral, Israel has used it to legitimize its expansionist project.