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Israel’s intentions on annexation still unknown ahead of deadline



Days before what could be considered a historic turning point in the Middle East, it is still unclear whether the Israeli government intends to follow through with plans to apply Israeli law over contentious territories in the West Bank and to what extent.

Israel, which captured the territories during the 1967 Mideast War, has refrained until now from annexing the territory while settling it in the past decades with approximately half a million Israelis.

Palestinians see the West Bank as a major part of their future state.

When United States President Donald Trump revealed his peace plan for Israelis and Palestinians earlier this year, it was met with great enthusiasm in the Israeli right wing, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

For the Palestinians and many other players in the international arena, the plan was a slap in the face and a U-turn from the two-state solution many believe in.

Netanyahu appears determined to move ahead with the plan, brushing aside any criticism. The plan includes leaving many parts of the West Bank under Israel’s control.

But since Netanyahu promised to begin annexation of the territory on July 1 this year, there have been many changes which may delay or modify the move.

The Israeli prime minister leads a coalition government with a certain degree of opposition within its lines. While his partners, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz, have voiced their support for the Trump “Deal of the Century,” there are differences of opinion regarding the timing and manner of the implementation of the annexation.

While Netanyahu has made statements that he wants to move ahead with annexation, Gantz tweeted on Monday that “Whatever does not have to do with the coronavirus struggle, will wait until after the virus.”

The power-sharing deal between the two was signed mainly to battle the virus and its after-effects. The agreement stipulates mutual veto-power on all issues brought to a cabinet vote but the annexation. Netanyahu can bring the move to a parliament vote without Gantz’s agreement and will likely have a majority.

Netanyahu is eager to pursue annexation before the upcoming American election which might see his ally Trump lose his seat in the White House. Gantz has been more cautious, calling for annexation only after consultation with other international players.

Trump and Netanyahu find themselves in a minority when pushing for annexation. UN secretary-general, the European Union (EU) and many Arab countries have all voiced their opposition to the planned annexation.

Israeli media outlets reported Netanyahu told his party members Monday that annexation will be delayed due to “various diplomatic and security considerations.”

Israel is also waiting for a decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding its jurisdiction to investigate Israel on war crimes allegations, expected in the coming days. This may be a factor on when Netanyahu will time his announcement on annexation.

“He may choose a phased annexation, first the more consensual settlements and then continue after the United States election. This keeps him loyal to his promises while seeing a softer international response,” said Nimrod Goren, head of the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies,

Regardless of whether Netanyahu decides to annex all the territories or parts of the West Bank, the process will be the beginning of a tectonic shift in the Middle East.


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Israel records second direct flight from Nigeria



The State of Israel on Tuesday recorded second direct flight from Nigeria, which is described as another milestone in the 60 years of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Mr Yotam Kreiman, Deputy Chief of Mission, Israel to Nigeria said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Tuesday.

Kreiman said that 45-passengers that boarded the flight from Nigeria to Israel included Israelis, Nigerian diplomats and citizens on medical urgent matters.

“Forty five Israelis and Nigerians are flying out of Nigeria, and on the plane returning, we have 75 passengers coming back to Nigeria including Nigerian diplomats returning home,” he said

According to him, the flight is put together through the help of the Chairman, Air-Peace, Allen Onyema and the Israeli companies in Nigeria.

Kreiman said: “For us, this is a special celebration; we are doing 60-years celebration of the relationship between Israel and Nigeria.

“What is unique about the second direct flight leaving today (Tuesday) from Lagos-Abuja to Tel-Aviv is that we are strengthening ties by creating a more direct flights in the future.

“We hope to see all the direct flights coming up soon; where tourists, students, Christians and Muslims can come and visit Israel.

“And, they can go directly on easy, cheaper and faster way; this is what it means to us,” he said.

He noted that a 16-year-old Nigerian student in need of special medical treatment in Israel for blood donation over brain problem was also on-board of the flight.

“The student’s family member was found as suitable blood donor, therefore his inclusion in chattered flight by Israeli company, as special guest to Israel, to save his life,” he said.

He said that in spite challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, the Israel-Nigeria cooperation waxed stronger.

He noted that Israel, during the pandemic donated facemasks to doctors and nurses through partnership with the Ministry of Health.

He added that palliative was also donated to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)Mosques and orphanages in collaboration with ChabadAid.

Edited By: Chinyere Bassey/Isaac Aregbesola (NAN)

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Israeli minister calls for return to lockdown



An Israeli Minister close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called for a renewed lockdown to prevent coronavirus infections from spiralling out of control.

“I believe that we must go to a lockdown now,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview aired on Ynet, the online version of Israel’s biggest-selling Yedioth Ahronoth daily on Monday.

“A lockdown of between 10 and 20 days.

“A lockdown that breathes you go to work, the supermarket or the pharmacy, but not to places of entertainment.

“Why? First of all, we’ll probably get there. So better early than late,’’ he argued.

Steinitz added that the current suspension of flights to and from Israel over coronavirus concerns would be far more damaging to the country’s economy than temporarily closing local businesses such as bars.

“A lockdown of around 14 days could cut the number of new infections to several dozen a day,’’ he said.

Although its total death toll, at 362 is relatively low, the number of new infections in Israel has begun spiralling out of control.

On Sunday, Israel saw 1,151 new cases in one day, after hitting a record with 1,464 daily cases on Friday.

He said that there were 18,300 confirmed active cases of coronavirus, of whom 151 were defined as being in serious condition, while 47 were on respirators.

Netanyahu, initially praised for his decisive action early on in the pandemic, has faced growing criticism and anger.

In the largest demonstration yet against his handling of the crisis, tens of thousands protested in Tel Aviv late on Saturday.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Ali Baba-Inuwa (NAN)

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Thousands demonstrate against Israeli government’s virus policy



Thousands of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s economic policy in light of the coronavirus crisis, media outlets reported on Sunday.

More than 10,000 people gathered in central Rabin Square on Saturday evening to draw attention to the financial difficulties brought about the coronavirus crisis, especially self-employed Israelis.

They accuse the government of not taking care of citizens’ needs.

Twelve demonstrators were arrested, a police spokesman said on Sunday.

Some protesters reportedly clashed with the Police after they tried to block central streets in Tel Aviv.

Three officers were slightly injured after demonstrators used pepper spray on them.

Netanyahu, on Thursday, presented his aid package to help people through the coronavirus crisis.

The programme is intended to provide a safety net for the employed, self-employed and businesses through next June, he said.

Finance Minister, Israel Katz, said the total package is worth about 80 billion shekels ($23 billion).

Coronavirus restrictions, put in place earlier this year, took a heavy toll on the Israeli economy, with the unemployment rate most recently registered at more than 20 per cent.

The country’s daily infection rate has been rising again, prompting new restrictions to be imposed, and further increasing criticism of Netanyahu over his crisis management abilities.

According to the Health Ministry, over 37,400 people have been infected with the coronavirus, while 354 of them have died.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Vote challenging legal system in Israel fails after coalition rift



A rift among Israeli coalition partners on Wednesday erupted over a controversial proposal challenging the legal system, which was supported by members of the Prime Minister’s party but voted down.

Members of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party voted in favour of the proposal to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry into conflicts of interest in the Supreme Court and in courts in general.

This, however, drew reactions from Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party as well as the Labour party.

However, 43 out of the 120 lawmakers voted in favour of the proposal and 54 opposed. The rest were absent, including Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has repeatedly attacked the judicial system in Israel, accusing it of a “witch hunt” against him.

He stands trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

At the start of his trial in May, he accused police, prosecutors and left-wing journalists of joining forces to create “fabricated and delusional cases” against him.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn of the Blue and White Party said he was ashamed of the proposal and accused Likud of breaching a coalition agreement by supporting it.

The vote came at the height of the coronavirus crisis in the country.

“Instead of dealing with the unemployed and the self-employed – the Likud wants to investigate the judges,” Gantz said.

Economy Minister Amir Peretz of the Labour Party accused Netanyahu of creating crisis which could lead to elections.

Knesset Speaker Miki Zohar of Likud said his party was voting for the proposal solely out of the desire to live up to voters’ expectations.

“We have no desire to go to elections,” he said.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Muhammad Suleiman Tola (NAN)

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‘Emergency situation’ in Israel as Netanyahu weighs new restrictions



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that more wide-ranging measures may be necessary to slow the spread of the coronavirus, as infections numbers climb fast in the country.

“We are in the midst of a renewed attack of the coronavirus, a very strong attack that is increasing and spreading both around the world and here as well,” Netanyahu said at a weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, according to an English version of the transcript.

The cabinet would meet again on Monday to consider reimposing national anti-virus restrictions, he said.

New infections over a 24-hour period passed the 1,000-mark for the first time on Friday.

Nearly 30,000 have been infected since the outbreak began, of which 330 have died according to official figures.

As the numbers rose, the government had already brought back in restrictions on larger gatherings, saying they had to be limited to 50 people in places of prayer, halls, bars and clubs. Previously the limit had been 250.

In other closed venues, the limit is 20 people.

Netanyahu said the “emergency situation” required a new way of approaching decision-making in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

“We cannot approach Knesset legislation … as if everything was normal.

“We want to advance both the means to make decisions and decision-making on a different scale and magnitude” in order to combat the virus, he said without specifying any details of what this would involve.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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UNIFIL chief urges Lebanon, Israel to avoid provocative activities




The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Chief Stefano Del Col urged on Thursday Lebanon and Israel to “avoid activities that could be deemed provocative by the other side.”

Otherwise, the two sides have the potential to escalate with uncontrollable consequences, said a statement by the UNIFIL.

Del Col underlined UNIFIL’s confidence-building and conflict mitigation efforts and asked that the parties “to de-conflict and enhance stability along the Blue Line.”

Del Col’s remarks came during the second special Tripartite meeting since the COVID-19 outbreak with senior officers from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces.

The discussions focused on the situation along the Blue Line, air and ground violations and other issues within the scope of UNIFIL’s mandate under UN Security Council resolution 1701.


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Palestinian economy may lose 3.5 bln USD annually if Israel implements annexation plan: official




The Palestinian economy may lose more than 3.5 billion United States dollars annually if Israel implements its plan to annex parts of the West Bank, a senior Palestinian official said Wednesday.

Mazen Ghoneim, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, told the official Palestinian television that the Palestinians will lose about 600 million cubic meters of water per year and at least 73,000 job opportunities if Israel annexes the Jordan Valley in the West Bank.

“If Israel implements its annexation plan, the rate of imports will increase and the contribution of the agricultural sector in local production will decrease, and consequently, rates of unemployment will increase,” said Ghoneim.

He said Israel’s annexation of the Jordan Valley is aimed at having a larger control of Palestinian water resources as Israel is controlling more than 85 percent of the Palestinian water resources.

The Israeli government is planning to annex more than 30 percent of the West Bank and impose sovereignty on several Israeli settlements in the territory.

Tension between the Palestinians and Israelis has mounted after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his annexation plan would start in July.


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Israeli PM to continue talks over annexation plan “in the coming days” : PM’s office




Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue discussing his West Bank annexation plan “in the coming days,” his office said Wednesday.

Netanyahu will continue to hold discussions with the United States teams, his office said in a statement, adding that he held a discussion on Wednesday with Israel‘s National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat and will hold further talks on the issue.

Netanyahu previously set July 1 as the starting date for his plan to annex parts of the West Bank. However, the controversial plan seemed to be delayed, short of a green light from the White House.

Netanyahu and his main coalition partner, Benny Gantz, leader of the centrist Blue and White party, are at odds over the starting date of the annexation, with Netanyahu wishing to begin it on Wednesday and Gantz wanting to postpone until after the coronavirus crisis.

On Tuesday, after meeting with United States Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz, Netanyahu appeared to be backtracking on the date, saying his government is still “working” on the plan, suggesting it will be postponed.

The Palestinians and most of the international community have condemned the plan and consider it a violation of international law.


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Palestinians hold demonstrations against Israeli annexation plan




Thousands of Palestinians on Wednesday joined a public protest in the Gaza Strip against the Israeli plan to annex parts of the West Bank.

The protestors marched along the streets of Gaza city, holding the Palestinian flag and banners, reading “annexation will not pass” in Arabic and English.

The protest was organized by the Palestinian national and Islamic political factions, which called for considering July 1 a “Day of Rage.”

July 1 was set by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the date to declare the annexation of parts of the West Bank.

“The annexation decision is an existential threat to the Palestinian people,” said the political factions in a joint statement.

“The Palestinian people will not remain silent and a new wave of struggle would break out,” the statement warned.

Protestors in the blockaded Gaza Strip said they got together to express solidarity with the people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, calling for a national unity.

Meanwhile, activists launched an e-campaign on social media and through local media outlets in Palestine with messages against the Israeli annexation plan.

Shatha Hammad, the campaign coordinator, said in a statement that it is aimed at amplifying the Palestinian message from all over the occupied territories against annexation on the date Israel set for launching it.

The Israeli government is planning to annex more than 30 percent of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. It also plans to impose sovereignty on several Israeli settlements in the territory.

Tension between the two sides has mounted after Netanyahu announced that his annexation plan will be implemented on July 1.

Netanyahu said on Tuesday that his government is still “working” on his West Bank annexation plan, hinting at the postponement of the controversial move.

Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leader of Blue and White party, are at odds over the starting date of the annexation, with Netanyahu declaring July 1 as its start-date and Gantz wanting to postpone it until after the coronavirus crisis.

Israel’s annexation plan was received with widespread condemnations by the Palestinians, most of the Arab world, and the international community.


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