Blue and White list No. 2 Yair Lapid speaks at a briefing organized by the Foreign Press Association in Jerusalem on February 10, 2020. (Charles Bybelezer)

Lapid: Blue & White List Opposes ‘Unilateral’ Israeli Annexations (with VIDEO)

Head of the centrist Yesh Atid party implies that a Benny Gantz-led government would not apply sovereignty over West Bank territories even if the move is recognized by Trump Administration

Blue and White No. 2 Yair Lapid on Monday told foreign press that his political alliance opposes Israel’s “unilateral” annexation of territories in the West Bank, which the Palestinians claim in its entirety as part of a future state. The assertion came a day after Washington’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, announced that a joint US-Israeli committee was in the process of being formed to map out areas beyond the pre-1967 borders to which the Jewish state could then immediately apply sovereignty with American backing.

When asked by The Media Line if Blue and White would annex those designated regions if the list forms the next Israeli government following the upcoming March 2 national elections, Lapid said: “Neither in the plan itself nor in the discussions we had, and we had very thorough discussions with the Americans … nobody said anything about taking that sort of unilateral step. This is something that came from [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s] office right after the proposal was presented, probably, it seems, for campaign reasons, and this is something you don’t do. It is too serious to become a stunt.

“The plan [envisions] applying Israeli sovereignty to more than just the Jordan Valley,” Lapid continued, “but as part of an ongoing process of negotiations and we are against anything that is unilateral, because first of all, if it is unilateral, you don’t need a plan. You just go ahead and do it.

“If you want the [peace initiative] to succeed,” he concluded, “you have to work with it as a whole … and you have to understand that one part is dependent on the other.”

Blue and White chief Benny Gantz was invited to the White House for talks with US President Donald Trump a day prior to the January 28 release of the US administration’s Middle East peace plan. While he thereafter publicly accepted the proposal as a basis for future negotiations with the Palestinians, Gantz beforehand made headlines by suggesting he would only move to annex the strategic Jordan Valley “in conjunction with the international community.”

Virtually all nations oppose such a move, which makes President Trump’s initiative controversial and at the same time appealing to a huge swath of Israelis who view the West Bank as the Jewish people’s biblical heartland. Many others fear that the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would pose an intolerable security threat.

The prospect of annexations has become perhaps the central issue ahead of the upcoming national vote, with Netanyahu insisting that he will apply Israeli law to all Jewish communities located across the Green Line agreed to by the joint task force.

In the immediate aftermath of the peace plan’s release, Netanyahu had vowed to convene his cabinet within a week to vote on annexing approximately 30% of the West Bank.

However, amid pushback from the US administration, on Sunday, he realigned his position, saying, “We brought an American plan according to which Israel [can apply its] sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, all the [Israeli] communities in Judea and Samaria without exception – big or little – and large territories surrounding them.”

“This requires precise mapping of these areas, the entire territory,” the prime minister added. “But the Americans are saying in the clearest manner: ‘We want to give you recognition and we’ll give it to you when the entire process is complete.’”

Gantz’s Blue and White is currently leading Netanyahu’s Likud party in the polls, although neither of them are predicted to have a clear path to forming a 61-member majority coalition following two inconclusive elections last April and September.

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