By Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel—
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Monday ordered IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi to “step up preparations for the Israel Defense Forces,” ahead of a government proposal to annex portions of the West Bank, his office said.
The military has roughly one month to complete preparations ahead of the government’s plan to extend Israeli sovereignty to settlements and the Jordan Valley — some 30 percent of the West Bank — which many defense analysts and officials have warned could lead to an outbreak of Palestinian violence, as well as threaten Jerusalem’s ties with its neighbor Jordan and other Arab countries.
Gantz himself is believed to oppose unilateral annexation, but his coalition deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu allows the latter to push forward with the plan from July 1, so long as he can secure approval from the Knesset — where he is almost guaranteed a majority — and from the United States.
Though the military had already been preparing for potential unrest in response to the move, until Gantz’s meeting with Kohavi on Monday, the IDF was doing so without having much specific information about the government’s intentions, aspects of which still remain undecided.
In his statement, the defense minister did not explicitly refer to annexation, but ordered Kohavi to “step up preparations for the IDF ahead of diplomatic efforts on the agenda in the Palestinian arena.”
“The defense minister also updated the chief of staff on advancements on the diplomatic front,” a spokesperson said, without elaborating.
Gantz said he also plans to appoint a point-person to coordinate between the different government bodies involved in the process.
“A joint team will be formed that will bring together recommendations — on an operational level — for the efforts that are on the agenda for the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” his office said.
The move would be coordinated with the United States, in accordance with a Middle East plan US President Donald Trump unveiled in January, which endorsed extending Israeli sovereignty over these parts of the West Bank.
However, the entire peace plan has been rejected by the Palestinian Authority, which seeks the West Bank as territory for a future Palestinian state. Continue Reading….