Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main coalition partner, Benny Gantz, were at odds over the timing of the country’s plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

On Monday, Netanyahu and Gantz, who serves as alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister, held separate meetings with Avi Berkowitz, US President Donald Trump’s envoy for international negotiations over the annexation plan, reports Xinhua news agency.

Netanyahu had already declared that he wants to begin imposing Israeli sovereignty over Jordan Valley, part of the West Bank, as soon as July 1, in accordance with Trump’s Middle East peace plan.

But Gantz told a meeting of lawmakers with his centrist Blue and White party that “anything not related to the struggle against the coronavirus will wait”.

“Before making any political moves, we need to help the public to get back to earn a living with dignity,” Gantz said.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Benny Gantz, former Israeli Army Chief of Staff and main coalition partner of Netanyahu 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

In the afternoon, Netanyahu was quoted as dismissing Gantz’s remarks.

He told a meeting of lawmakers with his right-wing Likud party that he is working “discretely” with envoys of Trump, his close ally.

“The issue does not depend on Blue and White,” he said, according to local media reports.

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 starting from July 1, even without Gantz approval.

The annexation plan was accepted with widespread condemnations by the Palestinians, most of the Arab world, and the international community.

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 .
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Alex Kolomoisky/JINI /Handout via Xinhua/IANS)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged Israel on Monday to halt the “illegal” plan.

“I am deeply concerned that even the most minimalist form of annexation would lead to increased violence and loss of life, as walls are erected, security forces deployed and the two populations brought into closer proximity,” Bachelet said in a statement.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and has controlled the territory ever since, despite international criticism.



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