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.


Lebanese president says blast probe looking into external interference among possible causes

Updated 20 min 9 sec ago

Lebanese president says blast probe looking into external interference among possible causes

  • Aoun said there is a possibility of external interference
  • He added that the probe was being conducted on three levels

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president said an investigation into the Beirut port warehouse explosion was looking at whether it was caused by negligence, an accident or possible external interference, his office cited him as telling local media on Friday.
“The cause has not been determined yet. There is a possibility of external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act,” President Michel Aoun said in comments carried by local media and confirmed by his office.
He said the probe into Tuesday’s blast at a warehouse housing highly-explosive material was being conducted on three levels. “First, how the explosive material entered and was stored ... second whether the explosion was a result of negligence or an accident ... and third the possibility that there was external interference.”