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Israeli leaders say West Bank annexation must wait due to… COVID-19

What was surely supposed be the most controversial and provocative move in all recent Israeli-Palestine conflict history was supposed to be initiated yesterday, July 1st, according to prior target date statements of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex up to one-third of West Bank territory, including the Jordan Valley.

Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials claimed to have a ‘green light’ from the Trump administration, but at this point it’s anything but certain. “We are in discreet talks with US officials here,” Netanyahu told a Likud party meeting on Monday. “We are doing it discreetly. The matter is not up to Blue and White, they are not a factor either way,” he said in reference to the power sharing coalition with ‘Alternate Prime Minister’ and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Gantz told his party at the start of this week that annexation “will have to wait” due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the country.

“Anything unrelated to the battle against the coronavirus will wait,” Gantz said.

This as the country’s health ministry is urging authorities to impose a second locking down of cities while cases soar again both inside Israel and the Palestinian territories.

In reality citing the coronavirus crisis also appears a well-timed excuse to temporarily delay a plan that will surely set the region on fire, given the unforeseen consequences for both Palestinians and Israel. Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have said such a move would be a declaration of war. Hamas has openly stated it will attack Israeli towns and settlements if Palestinian territory is seized.

Israel is looking to seize up to 30% of West Bank territory, bringing it under permanent Israeli control, as part of Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ Mideast peace plan. Theoretically according to the plan the remainder of the territory will be used to establish an autonomous Palestinian state.

Meanwhile The Jerusalem Post has confirmed that annexation will not happen this week, largely because Washington has not yet fully approved the plan.

For now, Israeli politicians will blame coronavirus while still claiming a US green light, despite US and Israeli officials still in high level meetings to hash things out, and contingency plans for what could unleash a next Palestinian intifada.