Israel’s Gantz says date for West Bank annexation talks ‘not sacred’

Israeli alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister Benny Gantz attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem while wearing a protective mask due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on June 7, 2020. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Israel’s Gantz says date for West Bank annexation talks ‘not sacred’

  • Washington wants Gantz on board for the plan, which envisages Israel annexing Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley
  • Netanyahu and Gantz had agreed in a deal under which they formed a coalition government last month that a cabinet debate on annexation could begin as of July 1

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s top coalition partner Benny Gantz said on Monday that a July 1 target date to begin discussing proposed annexation of occupied West Bank land was “not sacred,” a source in Gantz’s party said.
The remarks, which the source said Gantz made during a meeting with US Ambassador David Friedman and White House adviser Avi Berkowitz, threw doubt on prospects for a unified Israeli approach to President Donald Trump’s peace plan.
Washington wants Gantz on board for the plan, which envisages Israel annexing Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley, and a Palestinian state established under strict conditions elsewhere in the West Bank.
With the Palestinians boycotting the plan, however, Netanyahu and Gantz had agreed in a deal under which they formed a coalition government last month that a cabinet debate on annexation could begin as of July 1.
“Gantz made clear in the meeting that July 1 is not a sacred date” and voiced preference for Israel dealing with the economic ravages of the coronavirus crisis, a source in his centrist Blue and White party said.
Briefing reporters last week, Gantz — who serves as Israel’s defense minister, as well as alternate prime minister — predicted that the coronavirus crisis could last 18 months.
Hailing the Trump plan as an “historic move,” Gantz told the US envoys that it should be advanced “with strategic partners in the region and with the Palestinians, and to reach an arrangement that benefits all side,” the source said.
The US embassy spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.


Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill

Updated 16 January 2021

Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill

  • Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships”
  • In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Saturday launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean, state television reported, amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program and a US pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.
Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships” at a distance of 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles). The report did not specify the type of missiles used.
In the first phase of the drill Friday, the Guard’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against “hypothetical enemy bases.” Iranian state television described the drill as taking place in the country’s vast central desert, the latest in a series of snap exercises called amid the escalating tensions over its nuclear program. Footage also showed four unmanned, triangle-shaped drones flying in a tight formation, smashing into targets and exploding.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased amid a series of incidents stemming from President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Amid Trump’s final days as president, Tehran has recently seized a South Korean oil tanker and begun enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, while the US has sent B-52 bombers, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region.
In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord, which he has said America could reenter.
Iran fired cruise missiles Thursday as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, under surveillance of what appeared to be a US nuclear submarine. Iran’s navy did not identify the submarine at the time, but on Saturday, a news website affiliated with state television said the vessel was American. Helicopter footage of the exercise released Thursday by Iran’s navy showed what resembled an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, the USS Georgia, which the US Navy last month said had been sent to the Arabian Gulf.
Iran has missile capability of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), far enough to reach archenemy Israel and US military bases in the region. Last January, after the US killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, Tehran retaliated by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops, resulting in brain concussion injuries to dozens of them.
Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing from the accord.
When the US then increased sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.