‘No annexation decision has been made,’ says FM Gabi Ashkenazi

According to the coalition agreement between Ashkenazi’s Blue and White party and Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can bring annexation to a vote on July 1, in three weeks, at the earliest.

By LAHAV HARKOV, JPOST JUNE 10, 2020 19:15

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas deliver opening remarks ahead of their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas deliver opening remarks ahead of their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem (photo credit: FOREIGN MINISTRY)

The government has not yet decided whether to extend Israel’s laws to parts of the West Bank, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a press conference with his German counterpart Heiko Mass on Wednesday.

Ashkenazi repeatedly cited the lack of a decision in response to questions about the details of how Israel would implement US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

According to the coalition agreement between Ashkenazi’s Blue and White party and Likud, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can bring annexation to a vote on July 1, in three weeks, at the earliest.

Asked about the maps being drawn to indicate which areas Israel would annex, Ashkenazi pointed out that they are not ready yet. He said the Trump plan features a conceptual map, and the US-Israel mapping committee is meant to fill in the details of exactly where each settlement ends.

“The map is not a decision. It will be the basis for a decision we will make,” Ashkenazi said, emphasizing that he and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz are familiar with the mapping work and the territory being examined.

As for the status of Palestinians if Israel proceeds with annexation, Ashkenazi said “the plan defines the status of the residents.

The text of the plan states that Israelis remain Israeli and Palestinians would remain under the Palestinian Authority until an eventual state is established. The Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace” would create Palestinian enclaves within sovereign Israel, and Israeli enclaves in an eventual Palestinian state rather than have each side accept the other as citizens.

Despite referring to the plan, Ashkenazi remained noncommittal, saying: “We are at the beginning of discussions…No decision has been made; it’s a bit early. Once a decision has been made, we can give details.”

Ashkenazi also called for Germany to wait for the Israeli decision before responding to the possibility of annexation.

He and Maas “didn’t discuss possible steps Germany will take” in response to annexation, he said.

“It is in Israel’s interest to remain a Jewish and democratic state,” he said.

In his opening remarks, Ashkenazi called Trump’s plan an “important milestone” and a “significant opportunity.”

“The plan will be pursued responsibly, in full coordination with the US, while maintaining Israel’s peace agreements and strategic interests. We intend to do it in a dialogue with our neighbors. Israel wants peace and security,” Ashkenazi said.

The Foreign Minister added: “We expect that international community to make it clear to the Palestinians that their refusal to engage will not advance Palestinian interests.”

Apparently acknowledging European and specifically German concerns over annexation, Ashkenazi said: “As one of our closest friends, it is important to listen to your perspective and to take it into consideration”

Maas warned that annexation would be incompatible with international law and make a two-state solution impossible.

“I will continue…to reiterate the German position and explain our serious and honest worries as a very special friend of Israel about the possible consequences of such a move,” he said.

“We share these views with our European partners, and we are of the view that annexation does not go together with international law…We continue to stand for an agreed-upon two-state solution,” Maas stated.

Maas is the first foreign statesman to visit Israel since the formation of the new government. He is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu and Gantz, as well.

At the beginning of their press conference, Maas and Ashkenazi signed an agreement for German funding of Yad Vashem over the next 10 years.

Ashkenazi also thanked Maas for Germany outlawing Hezbollah and said the rest of Europe should follow suit.

“Germany has made it clear that Hezbollah, is a terrorist organization and must be treated as such,” he said. “We call on the EU to follow Germany’s lead, and also outlaw Hezbollah.”

Ashkenazi said the world should pressure Iran to stop funding Hezbollah’s precision guided missiles project, which is meant “to give Hezbollah a strategic offensive capability that would directly threaten Israel and Israeli civilians.”

“We will not tolerate it,” he stated.

Iran is the biggest threat to regional stability, Ashkenazi added.

“Their nuclear program and regional ambitions remain a great concern. We will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons and we will not allow Iranian entrenchment on our borders. The international community must hold Iran accountable, and act strongly against Iran’s malign activities,” he said.

Asked about Iran’s further violations of the nuclear deal with world powers, Maas said Germans are aware of and disturbed by them.

Germany plans to invoke the agreement’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism in light of the latest revelations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency released a report last weekend that says Iran refused to grant inspectors access to undeclared military nuclear sites and posited that those sites may have been used for storing or processing nuclear material.

The IAEA also warned that Iran has stockpiled more than five times as much enriched uranium as permitted by the 2015 nuclear deal with the UK, France, Germany, Russia, China and the US, which has since withdrawn from it. The agreement limited Iran to 300 kg. of enriched uranium, but it had 1,571.6 kg. as of May 20.

Maas and Netanyahu met later Wednesday afternoon to discuss the economic implications of the countries’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Netanyahu reportedly reiterated the need to put pressure on Iran, stressing that the IAEA has reported the Islamic Republic continues violating its agreements, concealing its development of nuclear arms.

The prime minister also spoke with Maas about discontinuing German sponsorship and investment in NGOs acting against the State of Israel. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the German foreign minister moved to discuss the Trump Administration’s peace deal in light of Germany’s membership in the Security Council.

Netanyahu reportedly stressed Israel’s need for security as a basis for any future agreement with the Palestinians, insisting on full Israeli military control west of the Jordan River. According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu also said any “realistic plan has to recognize the Israeli settlement situation rather than pandering to the illusion of uprooting people from their homes.”

June 10, 2020 | Comments » | 90 views

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