Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he is still seeking approval of his annexation plan by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, a requirement to gain the Trump administration’s support. Officials from Gantz’s Blue and White party have said they cannot approve a plan until Netanyahu properly outlines one.
Speaking at a recent meeting with his Likud party, Netanyahu said he doesn’t have a map ready. “I wanted to bring annexation for approval soon, but the map isn’t ready yet,” Netanyahu said. The prime minister also said he is not sure where the Blue and White party stands.
The “peace plan” released by the Trump administration in January called for Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank and parts of the Jordan Valley, an area making up approximately one-third of the West Bank. The plan was immediately rejected by Palestinians, but Netanyahu intends on going through with the annexation and is looking to start on July 1st.
The Blue and White party has previously voiced their support for the annexation of the areas outlined in Trump’s peace plan, but it seems they want to take a slower and more cautious approach than Netanyahu and his Likud party. On Monday, Netanyahu said that doing the annexation in stages to please Gantz is a possibility, but vowed he would not give up on his goal of unilaterally annexing the areas allocated to Israel in Trump’s plan.
Gantz is set to take over as prime minister next year under the conditions of a power-sharing deal agreed to with Netanyahu after three back-to-back elections failed to give either politician a clear victory. But sources in the Likud party told Israel’s Channel 12 News that Netanyahu is looking to pull out of the deal and call for new elections.
“The marriage between us and Blue and White will end at the Rabbinate [with a divorce] much faster than everyone thinks,” a Likud source said. “Netanyahu is trying to find the right timing and pretext to call elections.” According to a recent poll, Netanyahu’s allies in the Knesset could gain enough seats to form a government without Gantz if new elections are held.
The possibility of new elections could have a significant impact on annexation plans. Either party may want to slow down or speed up annexation, depending on their strategy. If Netanyahu pulls off the annexation, he would likely gain more support. If annexation doesn’t happen this summer, Netanyahu can blame it all on the Blue and White party, which will hurt Gantz.