Netanyahu’s damage control strategy ahead of annexation vote

June 28, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing contradictory estimates from security agency chiefs on whether annexation will generate massive uprisings in the West Bank and Arab retaliation

The Kfar Adumim settlement, east of Jerusalem, on June 23, 2020, with the Judean Desert in the background

Ben Caspit writes in Al Monitor, “With the looming July 1 target date for annexing parts of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces an intense dilemma as he weighs the warnings of Israel’s top security and defense agencies about the potential fallout of such a move. Some, such as Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Heyman, are more definite and explicit. Others, like the Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman, are voicing lower-key warnings, whereas Netanyahu’s man, also tagged by some as his successor, Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen, deflects the alarmist attitudes as exaggerated. He does not see an outbreak of Palestinian violence in the wake of annexation, and he rejects forecasts of possible damage to Israeli interests and to its clandestine ties with the Gulf States. Cohen is emphatic in dismissing the panic, in arguing that the Arab world and the Palestinians specifically will accept the Israeli move, in rejecting scenarios of a third intifada and insisting that Israel’s ties with its neighbors, near and far, will survive intact.”

“Cohen popped over to the Jordanian port town of Aqaba this week for a lightning visit, meeting secretly with the main troublemaker of the annexation plan, King Abdullah II. The Mossad director is in charge of contacts with Arab states and of Israel’s clandestine relations with countries that do not have official diplomatic ties with the Jewish State. In recent months, Cohen has become the cornerstone, the main pivot of Netanyahu’s attempts at damage control over the annexation and of his bid to prove to Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, both former military chiefs, that imposing Israeli sovereignty over land claimed by the Palestinians would not harm Israel’s strategic interests.”

“On June 25, at a pilot training graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Force Base, Netanyahu announced that the health ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would “declare within minutes cooperation between their countries on the coronavirus issue.” This was Netanyahu’s and Cohen’s response to the June 12 op-ed piece by UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al-Otaiba in the Israeli Yediot Ahronoth newspaper warning against the implications of annexation, and to the tweet by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed backing King Abdullah’s opposition to annexation.” (more…)


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