Tomorrow, July 1, the Israeli Executive may initiate the annexation of parts of the West Bank according to the coalition pact, but within 24 hours, its content is not defined and the government – divided – continues to discuss with the United States, so delaying it is not ruled out.
“We are talking about the issue of sovereignty that we are working on these days, and we will continue to work on the following ones,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after today’s meeting with the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and White House special envoy to the Middle East Avi Berkowitz.
The statement was for some analysts an indication that perhaps tomorrow will not be the key day to begin the annexation, but they believe that Netanyahu, who does not want to back down, could make a symbolic announcement without practical implications or immediate effects.
At the moment, no meeting of the Government Cabinet has been convened, so no significant progress is expected tomorrow to implement the annexation plan.
LITTLE TANGIBLE CONTENT
“I might make a great gesture,” but it will be like presenting “a big box with little content,” analyst Amir Oren tells Efe.
As he remarks, there are still many pending issues: “There is nothing prepared on the ground, and nobody knows which parts will be annexed,” added to the lack of knowledge of the deadlines and the exact format of the plan, which only the US supports. and it is opposed by Palestinians and much of the international community.
“It is a complex process” and “there are many political and security issues to take into account that I cannot comment on in detail,” the head of government said yesterday at a meeting of his party, Likud.
The U.S. gave free rein to the annexation of the Jordan Valley and West Bank colonies in its peace proposal this January, but according to senior White House officials quoted by the Jerusalem Post, the Americans want to further discuss the matter.
Netanyahu presented annexation as his maximum electoral promise, but “he went a bit too far,” says Oren.
However, he has room to cover his back: “He can say that he will fulfill” his commitment later, since the Israeli population is “concerned about the economic crisis” of the coronavirus and this issue remains in the background.
But in turn, if he does not speak tomorrow, his credibility could be damaged and his detractors could benefit from it.
The annexation also evidenced the division in the Government. Netanyahu’s main partner, Defense Minister Beny Gantz, does not want to take unilateral steps without coordination with the international community, he believes that implementing the plan is not a priority now and he is betting on the country focusing on tackling the pandemic.
This has meant that less than a day before the deadline, the Executive reaches him without a consensus position, which is another obstacle for Netanyahu.
However, under the coalition pact, Gantz has no veto power over the plan, and Bibi can push it through without his approval, giving him an advantage. But at this point, it is not known how or when he will present it.
The territory to be annexed is another hot topic that is still being discussed with the United States: if the initial map proposed an annexation of a large part of the colonies and the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu could adopt a more prudent strategy to appease pressures and minimize the impact on the stability of the region.
According to media, it could foresee a phased process, with an initial annexation of the settlement blocks closest to Jerusalem, leaving aside the rest to reduce the reaction of Jordan and the Arab countries.
THE PALESTINE REACTION, ANOTHER INCOGNITE
Tomorrow protests are called in the West Bank and Gaza, and despite security experts warning of a rebound in violence, Palestinian analysts tell Efe that their reaction is uncertain.
The leadership position was severe: the Palestinian National Authority announced the breakdown of its agreements with Israel, including security cooperation.
The Islamist movement Hamas – which controls Gaza – called the annexation “a declaration of war” and warned that its military wing could respond with weapons.
But in places like the West Bank -also marked by COVID-19- “the general frustration” among a population that does not see it possible to change their situation after 53 years under occupation makes apathy mark day by day.
“We don’t know how people will react,” says lawyer Maha Abdallah, who, like many, is waiting to see what will happen tomorrow.
Joan Mas Autonell