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.


Jets hit Libya’s Al-Watiya Air Base where Turkey may build base

An image grab taken from a video released on July 3, 2020, by the Turkish Defence Ministry shows Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (C) greeting Libyan officials upon his arrival in Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 37 min 23 sec ago

Jets hit Libya’s Al-Watiya Air Base where Turkey may build base

  • Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defenses and drone strikes that targeted Khalifa’s supply lines and troop buildups

BENGHAZI: Warplanes struck overnight at an air base that was recently recaptured by Libya’s internationally recognized government from eastern forces with help from Turkey, a military source with the eastern forces and a resident nearby said.
The strikes were carried out by “unknown aircraft,” the military source with the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said.
A resident at the nearby town of Zintan said explosions were heard from the direction of the base.
Al-Watiya’s recapture in May by the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli marked the start of a sudden collapse of the LNA’s 14-month assault to seize the capital and its retreat along the coast to the new frontlines.
Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defenses and drone strikes that targeted Khalifa’s supply lines and troop buildups.
A Turkish source said last month that Turkey was in talks with the GNA to establish two bases in Libya, one of them at Watiya, the most important air base in western Libya.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was in Tripoli for meetings with the GNA on Friday and Saturday and Akar swore to do all that was necessary to help it, a Turkish Defense Ministry statement said.
Last month, the US said Russia had sent at least 14 MiG29 and Su-24 warplanes to an LNA base via Syria, where their Russian airforce markings were removed.
Turkish involvement in Libya has also angered France and Greece and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned of new sanctions on Ankara.
The GNA and LNA are now mobilizing forces at the new frontlines between the cities of Misrata and Sirte.