Gantz tells Trump aides that fighting coronavirus is more important than annexation

Gantz tells Trump aides that fighting coronavirus is more important than annexation”

The United Nations top human rights official Michelle Bachelet called on Israel on Monday to halt its "illegal" plans to annex part of occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank and warned it could lead to deadly clashes. A top U.S. envoy is in the country trying to work out a deal with the Israelis. The unity deal signed between Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last April enables Netanyahu to bring annexation for a vote on July 1.

"July 1 is not a sacred date", Gantz told US Mideast envoy Avi Berkowitz, according to a source close to the defense minister.

But in a meeting with his Blue and White party, Gantz said his top priority is helping the country cope with the health and economic crisis stemming from the coronavirus.

In public comments later in the day, Gantz said, at the Blue and White faction meeting, that "those things that are not related to the fight against coronavirus will wait until the virus is behind us".

He has estimated the health crisis could last another 18 months.

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While minimizing the importance of the date set by Netanyahu for implementing Israeli sovereignty on West Bank settlements, Gantz hailed President Donald Trump's peace plan, referring to it as "a historic step that constitutes the best framework to promote the Middle East peace process".

Hailing the Trump plan as an "historic move", Gantz told the USA envoys that it should be advanced "with strategic partners in the region and with the Palestinians, and to reach an arrangement that benefits all side", the source said.

Worldwide opposition has mounted in the past few weeks, with Palestinian leaders, the United Nations, European powers and Arab countries allied with Israel all denouncing any annexation of Palestinian land.

The Israeli foreign ministry accused Bachelet of bias and said in a statement that it was not surprising that she had made her remarks before "any decision has been made".

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