The Irish Times view on Israeli government formation: Gantz capitulates

The agreement appears to signal Netanyahu’s promised Israeli annexation of parts of occupied Palestinian territories

The agreement between Benny Gantz and Binyamin Netanyahu has caused particular alarm in the Palestinian community. Photographs: Amir Cohen/ Reuters; Ariel Schalit/Pool via Reuters

The agreement between Benny Gantz and Binyamin Netanyahu has caused particular alarm in the Palestinian community. Photographs: Amir Cohen/ Reuters; Ariel Schalit/Pool via Reuters

 

When Benny Gantz engineered his own election to the powerful position of speaker of the Knesset two weeks ago, his Blue and White party had reason to suspect their leader’s motives. The former army chief, who had created the party out of a guarantee to remove prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu from office, had won election to the speakership with the latter’s support while the party watched on bewildered. And then split.

The spectacular U-turn was completed on Monday when Gantz brought the remnants of his party into a Netanyahu-led national unity government, ostensibly to fight coronavirus. For the Middle East’s most successful escape artist, “Bibi”, it was a remarkable lifeline prolonging his own rule after three inconclusive elections in a year and as he faces next month into a trial for corruption.

Gantz will be deputy prime minister and is to get a turn as prime minister halfway through their three-year term, in October 2021. Netanyahu, ominously, will have an effective veto over appointments of the next attorney general and state prosecutor and has secured from Gantz a promise that if the supreme court rules that a criminal defendant cannot serve as prime minister, an immediate election will be called. It is to rule on the issue within months.

The agreement has caused particular alarm in the Palestinian community. The text appears to signal that Netanyahu’s promised Israeli annexation of parts of occupied Palestinian territories, foreseen in the Trump “vision for peace” plan, will be approved by the government on July 1st. Gantz will be “consulted” but not have a veto.

The agreement pledges that annexation will only be done in a way that safeguards Israel’s interests, “including the needs for preserving regional stability, protecting existing peace agreements and aspiring for future ones”. That is simply impossible. For Palestinians and the international community, the US excepted, the annexation would represent a compounding of its illegal occupation and a complete repudiation of the aspiration to a two-state solution.

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