Benny Gantz says Israel will press ahead with annexation plans if Palestinians aren’t willing to talk


JERUSALEM (JTA) — If the Palestinians are not willing to discuss Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank, “then we will have to move forward without them,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday.

“We need to not only manage the conflict but also shape it,” Gantz, also the alternate prime minister, told military reporters in a briefing.

The key, he said, is making sure that Israel remains a Jewish and Democratic state, and in control of its own security.

“We will not take Palestinians into our territory. We will not violate human rights or freedom of movement. We will operate in coordination with all of the countries in the region with which we are in contact,” Gantz said, Israel’s Channel 12 News reported.

Gantz also said that “what we will do will have consequences, and what we will not do will also have consequences.”

The Trump peace plan allows for Israel to annex up to 30 percent of the West Bank, and calls for negotiations toward a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will put annexation into motion after July 1.

Gantz, who will take over for Netanyahu a year and a half into his term, reportedly is in favor of the Trump plan because he believes it will break the political deadlock between Israel and the Palestinians and bring both sides to the negotiating table.

Several scenarios reportedly have been presented to the defense establishment, though no actual plans for annexation have been prepared, Haaretz reported.

Army Radio reported Tuesday that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, of Gantz’s Blue and White party, is working to stop the annexation, citing an unnamed United Nations official.

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