Photo: Flash90

Gantz: Terrorism spike “certain” when West Bank partially annexed

The Israeli security establishment has been instructed to accelerate preparations ahead of the anticipated governmental decision to assert sovereignty over significant parts of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley and portions of the Biblical territories of Judea and Samaria.

Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed he has held a number of consultations focused on a wide array of security-related issues over the past two weeks. During a faction at the Knesset, Gantz said the meetings were convened as part of his Blue and White party’s entry into the national unity government. He said discussion also centered on “the military’s sectors of activity – as well as on a certain increase in the terrorist events in Judea and Samaria.”

The Israeli leader emphasized that the peace process with the Palestinian Authority will continue to be advanced “as much as possible,” amid Ramallah’s declared cessation of security coordination with Jerusalem.

“Striving for peace while maintaining security are part of the basic desires of every citizen of the State of Israel and of Blue and White in particular,” he said, adding that, “Despite this, we understand that we live in an explosive environment, so I instructed the IDF Chief of Staff and the security establishment to analyze and examine all possible outcomes and preparations required as we try to move forward in the political process vis-à-vis the Palestinians in the spirit of U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan – which in our perspective signifies an opportunity to advance a joint, sovereign and safe life in this area.”

“We will work to advance this as much as possible while maintaining our strategic assets, cooperation with countries of our region, and of course, we will ensure the security of the citizens of Israel,” he proclaimed.

The Alternate Premier and Defense Minister also disclosed the formation of a team to provide an operational assessment of all proposed to be taken in the Jordan Valley, Judea and Samaria; as well as the Gaza Strip.

In contrast to the proactive approach of his coalition partner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has seemingly adopted an opposing strategy by excluding the Foreign Ministry and other state bodies from performing any role in crafting preparation for the likely annexation.

Netanyahu held a relatively lengthy telephone call with architect of the so-called “Deal of the Century” and White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner. The two discussed Israel’s plans to move forward on implementing the initiative, including annexation of about 30 % of the internationally disputed territories.

The White House issued a later statement describing the conversation as “productive,” but stopped short of providing further details. Local media is however reporting that senior Jerusalem officials speaking on condition of anonymity revealed the Trump Administration is ‘not thrilled’ by the speed at which Israel would like to extend sovereignty over the disputed territory and is hoping to slow the process.

The sources further asserted their belief that the U.S. is coming under heavy pressure by Arab Gulf States to delay Israel’s annexation plans over fear it could trigger a dangerous chain of events leading to destabilization of the entire region.

Meanwhile Jerusalem has not reciprocated against Ramallah for ending mutual strategic security coordination in anger over the West Bank annexation plan; and will not take any action unless Palestinian security forces interfere with IDF operational activity.

Palestinian sources say that Israel has, however, informed Ramallah that its armed forces will not be permitted in areas under Israeli security control without prior consultation.

Despite the latest rancor between the sides, the P.A. is continuing to safeguard Israeli nationals who mistakenly enter nearby Palestinian towns or villages. Local media is reporting that P.A. security personnel safely escorted several Israelis back home after they were discovered near Jericho about a week and a half ago, without interaction with their IDF counterparts.