Netanyahu keeping annexation maps close to chest, not even Gantz knows

One month left to the July 1 target date for the start of Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria, but only a few close to the prime minister know what’s on the maps.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Although the deadline set for Israel to annex settlements is only a month away, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is keeping the annexation maps within a close circle of confidants and not sharing the information, not even with his top ministers, Walla News reported Monday.

While political pressures on annexation are mounting from the Left and Right, only a very limited circle knows what is on the maps. Other than that – everyone is pretty much in the dark.

Not even the top members of Netanyahu’s coalition partners from the Blue and White party – Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi – have seen the maps, nor have senior officials in the defense, foreign affairs and justice ministries, although Gantz is expected to appoint a representative to the mapping team in the coming days.

The July 1 target date for the start of sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and Judea and Samaria was part of the coalition agreement, under which Netanyahu will present the details for government approval. The borders and details of how the settlements will be annexed will be subject to “debate and consultation” with Gantz. Last week, Netanyahu told a Likud caucus meeting that he intends to meet this deadline.

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin, who is a member of the mapping committee, said Israel was coming to a take-it-or-leave-it point for annexation.

“You must take what the Americans give, otherwise there is nothing,” Israel Army Radio reported Levin as saying.

Gantz and Ashkenazi, on the other hand, are very cautious when it comes to annexation and sovereignty, and have only given general references to the Trump peace plan since entering government. Last week, Gantz said that “in the coming weeks, the right course of action will be professionally tested to bring the best results and to safeguard Israel’s security and interests wisely.” Ashkenazi spoke to Israel Foreign Ministry diplomats about the need to maintain Israel’s peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt.

The day before the government’s inauguration, Gantz and Ashkenazi met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Ashkenazi has also held talks with other foreign ministers in recent weeks, mainly from European countries, where opposition to Israel’s annexation is mounting.

Political pressure is also mounting on Netanyahu, including from the right-wing where the Yesha Council is lobbying Knesset members and Likud ministers to oppose the Trump peace plan, saying it will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, which they vehemently oppose.

Officials said that apart from the limited circle of Israeli and American mapping staff, no one is up to date on the program details, and the maps the Yesha Council refer to are based on the conceptual map the Trump administration gave out months ago. Under that initial proposal, Israel will assert sovereignty over 30 percent of the territory while 70 percent will be allocated to a future Palestinian state.

Likud officials believe that Netanyahu will try to “eat the cake and leave it whole,” meaning he will try to pass the annexation without addressing the Palestinian state, hoping that due to the Palestinian refusal to even discuss the Trump plan the U.S. administration will recognize the annexation.

If the Americans insist Israel adopt the whole Trump plan, including recognition of a future Palestinian state, Netanyahu may face significant difficulties within his own Likud party.

Cabinet Minister Ze’ev Elkin told Israel Army Radio on Sunday that the July 1 deadline was not carved in stone and that “it may take a few more days or a few weeks. “