How Netanyahu and Gantz Have Clashed on Sovereignty Extension Over Palestinian Territories

The Israeli Knesset’s deadline to draft a road map for an extension of sovereignty over the Jordan Valley expired on 1 July. The deadline for publishing the plan has been postponed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that starting from July, he would initiate a discussion on the extension of sovereignty project in the Knesset and the relevant commissions, not the extension process itself.

Meanwhile, the conflict between Netanyahu and his planned successor, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, over the extension of sovereignty plan has not dissipated.

Experts told Sputnik whether Gantz and Netanyahu’s disagreements show that the domestic political crisis in Israel is ongoing and whether Tel Aviv might freeze the extension of sovereignty process altogether.

Where Did It All Stem From?

On 17 May, before the swearing-in ceremony of the new Israeli government, Benjamin Netanyahu said that the time had come for an extension of sovereignty over Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley, accounting for up to 30% of the West Bank, under the “Deal of the Century” peace plan.

The coalition agreement between the Likud and Kahol Lavan parties allowed the head of government to initiate steps to extend sovereignty on 1 July 2020, whereas the Knesset must develop a road map for those steps.

However, no common solution has been worked out so far. On the contrary, the positions of Likud, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who calls for an extension of sovereignty over the territories of the Palestinian Authority as soon as possible, have further diverged from those of Kahol Lavan.

The leader of the latter, Benny Gantz, has consistently advocated for postponing the plan for a variety of reasons.

There is an open conflict of interest in the government bundle of Netanyahu-Gantz and, consequently, the government coalition in the Knesset.

Political Crisis or Seeking Consensus?

The verbal battles in Israel between the prime minister and his future successor – who is in the meantime the minister of defence – have been going on for more than a week. The key stumbling block for the two leaders of the country has been the issue of the extension of sovereignty over the territories of the Jordan Valley, although both politicians fully supported the “Deal of the Century” plan.

Sergei Elkind, an expert from the US-Israeli Centre for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, sees a continuation of the internal political crisis, which does not seem to have disappeared after the third parliamentary elections in one year and the formation of a government.

However, an Israeli diplomat and political scientist, Israel’s former Ambassador to the Russian Federation Zvi Magen, believes that this is not about the crisis, but the painful search for a single solution between the parties.

Does Washington Make the Call, Not Kahol Lavan?

According to the Knesset’s official TV channel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also said at the Likud meeting on Monday that “talks are being held with the American team present in Israel; this is being done with caution, and the issue does not depend on Kahol Lavan.

In turn, a member of the Knesset for the Joint List Osama Saadi believes that the Israeli prime minister prefers to deal with the US rather than an ally in the government coalition.

Commenting on Benny Gantz’s position, the politician noted that he has virtually tied himself and his party hand and foot: the coalition with Likud does not give them the right to block Netanyahu’s decision.

He added that there was an impression that the Israeli prime minister was just mocking his own successor with such an attitude.

Status Quo Issue and How It Might End Up

According to Sergei Elkind, for more than ten years of his tenure in Israel, Netanyahu has sought, on the contrary, to preserve the status quo of the Palestinian Authority. And now there are many people in the country who understand that an extension of sovereignty would rather be harmful, and it would absolutely hurt all parties to the conflict.

Speaking about the challenges that await Israel in case of an extension of sovereignty, the Israeli expert continued:

New Time Frame for Implementation

Nonetheless, the development and formal publication of the extension of sovereignty plan has only been postponed to a later date. In turn, Zvi Magen believes it is possible to freeze the extension of the sovereignty plans for at least a few months, later the plans will still be attempted.

Israeli diplomat Magen, referring to the possible haste to make a decision, added that “the implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ is not an issue that should be rushed.

Osama Saadi, in turn, is confident that Tel Aviv is implementing this plan – and within the next few weeks.

The Palestinian National Authority, in turn, is betting on the upcoming American elections. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Wednesday that a victory of former US Vice President Joseph Biden could lead to an improvement in US-Palestinian relations.


How Netanyahu and Gantz Have Clashed on Sovereignty Extension Over Palestinian Territories

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