Netanyahu signals delay in West Bank annexation

JERUSALEM, March 15, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech regarding the new measures that will be taken to fight the coronavirus in Jerusalem on March 14, 2020. Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Saturday the closure of all shopping centers, restaurants, cafes, theaters and cinemas as part of the efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. So far, 193 coronavirus cases have been reported in Israel, of whom four have recovered. (Alex Kolomoisky/JINI /Handout via Xinhua/IANS) by .

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government was still “working” on his West Bank annexation plan, hinting at a possible delay of the controversial move.

Speaking a day ahead of the target date for the beginning of the annexation set by Netanyahu, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that he met US Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz and American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, reports Xinhua news agency.

Netanyahu said he discussed with them “the question of sovereignty”, referring to his plan to impose Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank where the Palestinians want to build their future state.

He noted his government was “currently working on” the plan and “will continue to work on it in the coming days”.

The remarks were made during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu and his main coalition partner, Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, were at odds over the annexation.

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(L-R) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and chairman of the Blue and White Israeli centrist political alliance join hands as they attend a memorial service for late Israeli president Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl, Israel’s national cemetery, in Jerusalem. Photo by: JINIPIX

While Netanyahu wanted to start the procedure of imposing Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley as early as July 1, Gantz wishes to postpone the move.

On Monday, Gantz, who serves as Israel’s alternate Prime Mminister and Defence Minister, told a meeting of lawmakers with Blue and White that “anything not related to the struggle against the coronavirus will wait”.

A few hours later, Netanyahu dismissed Gantz’s remarks, telling a meeting of lawmakers with his right-wing Likud party that he is working “discretely” with envoys of US President Donald Trump.

Under their power-sharing deal, both Netanyahu and Gantz hold veto power over key government decisions.

However, the deal allows Netanyahu to bring an annexation proposal to the cabinet even without Gantz’s approval.

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Isreal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with US President Donald Trump at White House in Washington D.C.

Netanyahu had set July 1 as the date for his plan to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up some 30 per cent of the West Bank, a territory seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.

The Palestinians, who claim all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, have rejected the idea.

More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Also Read – Netanyahu, Gantz at odds over West Bank annexation plan

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