Israel’s annexation of all Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank as well as the territory it designates as the Jordan Valley (about 30% of the West Bank) will move forward as early as July, according to the coalition agreement that was completed between far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Benny Gantz’s Israel Resilience party on Monday night, April 6. Under the agreement, Netanyahu would be able to put the plan for annexation to a vote in the cabinet if he receives a green light from the Trump administration.
Following the reported agreement on annexation, Netanyahu phoned David Elhyani, head of the Yesha Council settlement umbrella group. After his conversation with Netanyahu, Elhyani released a statement saying that the PM had promised him that the new government would act to apply Israeli sovereignty over segments of the occupied Palestinian territories in the coming months. According to a government official briefed on Netanyahu’s conversation with Elhayani, the premier told the settler leader that he, Netanyah, is taking personal responsible for bringing the annexation issue to a vote before the unity government in the coming months and that Gantz will have no veto power over such a move.
The annexation arrangement drew sharp criticism from Hadash and the Joint List alliance, with its chief, MK Ayman Odeh, condemning Gantz for his “most egregious surrender yet,” saying the plan would put an end to any hopes of a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “This means killing any chance at peace and cementing an apartheid state with Jewish citizens and Palestinian subjects,” Odeh said in a statement.
“Gantz has fallen to a new low and sold out all his values in exchange for a handful of sweetheart appointments,” said MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash – Joint List) in a Knesset session. “Gantz wants to enter a government under a premier indicted in three separate cases and will undoubtedly cave in to annexation demands.” Cassif also maintained that Gantz’s entering a coalition, along with Labor leader Amir Peretz (see below), with far-right fanatic religious leaders Bezalel Smotrich, Rafi Peretz and Naftali Bennett is tantamount to “dealing a fatal blow to democracy and peace.”
Gantz-Netanyahu Agreement Still Unsigned Amidst Shifting Alliances
However the signing of the agreement to create an emergency unity government was postponed after talks revealed yet another snag on Monday when the Likud tried to walk back its earlier agreement to allow Gantz’s party to control “the role and procedures governing the Judicial Appointments Committee.” For Gantz, the naming of justices is of primary importance – perhaps the ultimate reason for his acquiescing to Netayahu’s brinkmanship, as he and his center-left allies see it as a means, at least in the short run, of fending off the far-right’s attempts to weaken an independent judiciary that can and is prepared to set aside undemocratic legislation passed by the Knesset.
Perhaps for this reason, Gantz announced on Monday that his party is planning to merge with Labor headed by Amir Peretz, a move that will give this new bloc greater influence in the naming of judges for Israeli courts. However, at the same time, this merger is contrary to innumerable commitments Peretz made during the recent electoral campaign, saying that he would never join a coalition with Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Peretz’s decision to go with Gantz into a Netanyahu-headed government has effectively dissolved the electoral coalition between Meretz and Labor, the primary goal of which was to prevent Netanyahu from forming a new far-right, racist and war-mongering government that is currently still enjoying the tutelage of Trump’s version of US imperialism.