Israel May Annex Only Few Settlements As White House Remains Mum on Annexation Support; U.S. Senators and Representatives Weigh In On Annexation In Letters To Netanyahu; Hamas Calls Annexation A Declaration Of War

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly has four different plans for annexation. At one end of the spectrum is a plan that annexes all 132 Jewish settlements in the West Bank along with part of the Jordan Valley—about 30% of the total land allocated to Israel under U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan. At the other end of the spectrums is a plan that calls for full annexation under the Trump plan. All four plans have been presented to Defense Minister Benny Gantz. Netanyahu has promised to begin annexation on July 1, 2020. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Benny Gantz reportedly told Israeli defense officials that he will not support annexation of West Bank areas with “many Palestinian residents.” Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Gantz will not back such a plan because he wants to “avoid friction.” Gantz also reportedly said that he would bring any planned annexation move before the “professional ranks” to get their opinion. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Not all in his Blue and White party are on board with Gantz though. Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel said he would vote to annex portions of the West Bank even if party leader Gantz does not support it. Hendel reportedly said that he will “vote in favor of applying the law” to areas of the West Bank. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… And three former senior military officers have reportedly turned down Gantz’s offers for them to lead the administrative headquarters overseeing the annexation. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Three of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Democratic party—Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Robert Menendez of New Jersey—have warned Israel against annexing parts of the West Bank. In a statement released over a week ago, the trio stated they felt “compelled to express opposition to the proposed unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank.” Their statement also said that “[a] sustainable peace deal that ensures the long-term security of Israel and self-determination for Palestinians must be negotiated directly between the two parties.” The letter also said that “[u]nilateral annexation runs counter to those long standing policies and could undermine regional stability and broader US national security interests in the region.” All three senators have been strong Israel supporters. A similar letter circulating among House Democrats has garnered more than 120 signatures. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Meanwhile, top House Republicans have authored their own letter supporting Israel’s right to determine its borders. “We write to reaffirm the unshakeable alliance between the United States and Israel, to emphasize that Israel has the right to make sovereign decisions independent of outside pressure, and to express our support for you as you make such decisions in your capacity as Israel’s democratically-elected prime minister,” the letter said. The top three Republicans in the House, Kevin McCarthy, Calif., Steve Scalise, La., and Liz Cheney, Wyo., respectively, led the effort, which gathered 116 signatures. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer says, “The extension of Israeli sovereignty to certain territories in Judea and Samaria will not, as many critics suggest, destroy the two-state solution. But it will shatter the two-state illusion. And in doing so, it will open the door to a realistic two-state solution and get the peace process out of the cul-de-sac it has been stuck in for two decades.” Dermer went on to say that “Palestinian leaders have rejected every Israeli peace overture while systematically promoting a culture that rejects peace and glorifies terrorism, including by providing a lifetime of financial support for terrorists who murder Jews” and that the conflict “has never been about establishing a Palestinian state. It has always been about rejecting the Jewish state.” Dermer made the statements in an opinion piece in The Washington Post. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Meanwhile, President Trump’s senior aides began talks last week on whether to give Netanyahu a green light for annexation. Discussions included Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and advisor, Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security advisor, Middle East envoy Avi Berkowitz, and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Reported by Reuters. Read more… Though Trump participated, and despite three days of consultations, no consensus was reached. One unnamed official said that more “fact-finding” was needed. Reported by Reuters. Read more…Nonetheless, Kellyanne Conway, an advisor to Trump, says that he will have a “big announcement” soon about Israel’s annexation plans. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

A memo to Likud party members from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office warns that the evacuation of West Bank settlements would pose an “immediate existential threat” to Israel’s security. The reason is simple: too many Israelis live in these communities. According to the memo, “There can be no realistic Israeli-Palestinian peace accord in which the Judea and Samaria Jewish communities are evacuated. These are established communities in which hundreds of thousands of Israelis live.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Thousands rallied in the Jordan Valley against Israel’s annexation plans. It was the largest rally of its kind since January when Trump announced his peace plan for the region. U.N. Special Envoy to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, told Palestinians not to give up their dream of an independent state. He told them, “You’re not renting a house here, this is your home. You do not throw away the keys to something that you have been building for 25 years. You protect it and you invest in the future, a future that is built on shared values of democracy, accountability and prosperity for everyone.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

David Schenker, a senior advisor to U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told an Israeli radio station that he was “confident” Israeli leaders would take into consideration Arab Gulf states’ concerns regarding annexation. Arab Gulf states, particularly the United Arab Emirates, have strenuously objected to Israel’s unilateral annexation plans. Schenker said, “however Israel proceeds, that it will do so while taking steps that will preserve the administration’s vision for peace. Israel has in the past been savvy with how it handles relations with its Arab partners, and so I’m sure they will take all these factors into consideration.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel has reportedly told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that annexation plans have been greatly reduced and apply only to two or three settlement blocs. The message was reportedly delivered via Jordan. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Abbas refused a phone call from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and has reportedly threatened to collect weapons for the PA’s security forces and hand the weapons over to Israel if the Jewish state moves forward with annexation plans. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank is considered a ‘declaration of war’ says the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip with an iron hand. A senior Hamas Official, Dr. Basem Naim, told Fox News that annexation will destroy any prospects of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying “Palestinians would not accept these plans at all. They are going to resist these plans by all means available. Gaza is not excluded from this.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz has said if the Palestinians are willing to have “serious negotiations” he was ready “to be in Ramallah tomorrow morning to discuss this.” Gantz also repeated his promise that Israel will not annex areas with large numbers of Palestinians and will grant equal rights to those who do live in the annexed areas. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s security chiefs are divided over whether annexation will lead to violence. Israel’s Channel 12 news reported that the heads of the IDF, Mossad, and Shin Bet met with Israel’s high level security cabinet to discuss the ramifications of Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank, but could not come to a consensus on whether annexation would spark violent unrest among the Palestinian population. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Furthermore, it appears that Israel is prepared to deploy additional troops to the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas ahead of annexation. According to Israel’s Channel 13, the IDF has placed several battalions on standby in case violence breaks out. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

On the international scene, where Israel’s proposed annexation has been met with condemnation, U.K. MP Lisa Nandy, a senior member of Britain’s Labor party, has called for a boycott of Israeli products if the Jewish state proceeds with its plans. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…