Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke out on the issue of West Bank annexation on Tuesday, saying, “We will not continue to wait for the Palestinians. If they forever say ‘no’ to everything, then we are obligated to move forward without them.”
Although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to move forward on annexation of parts of the West Bank as early as the start of next month, Gantz has yet to make his official stance public.
Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Gantz said that the “key” to annexation was “protecting Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
“We will work to reduce as much as possible the danger of turning the State of Israel into a bi-national state, while maintaining the security of the state,” he added.
Gantz stated that annexation would be pursued “in close discussion” with the US and the international community, as well as “the Palestinians as much as they want to be part of the discussion.”
However, he emphasized, “We will not continue to wait for the Palestinians. If they forever say ‘no’ to everything then we are obligated to move forward without them.”
Addressing the issue of the fervent opposition to annexation on the part of Israel’s Arab neighbors, particularly Jordan, Gantz said, “We will not jeopardize the peace agreements.”
He noted that he was unsure if the annexation process would begin on July 1 or “be slightly postponed.”
It is believed that Gantz is willing to support a small “symbolic” annexation of several major settlement blocs, but not the 30% of the West Bank set to remain part of Israel in the Trump administration’s proposed peace plan.
The White House is reportedly cool to the idea of annexation without the support of Gantz and his centrist Blue and White party.