In late April Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shocked the region in declaring he expects that by middle of summer Israel would move to annex broad swathes of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, as part of Trump's "deal of the century" peace plan. The date consistently referenced in Israeli media reports is July 1st.
“President Trump pledged to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish communities there and in the Jordan Valley,” Netanyahu said. And just this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to an urgent United Nations appeal not to go through with it ahead of the July 1 target date by saying the matter is solely up to Israel to decide.
This as senior Trump aides reportedly met this week to hash out the matter of whether the administration should give the final "green light" - given it appears Tel Aviv is awaiting the moment of unambiguous backing before annexation. This is because it is sure to spark conflict on the ground. Hamas on Thursday said that annexation will be "a declaration of war".
Hamas military spokesperson Abu Obeida vowed that Israel will "bitterly regret" such a provocative decision and act of aggressive, Fox News reports. He called it a "declaration of war against the Palestinian people" in a video message directed both at Israel and for supporters. He vowed his Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades will fight as a "loyal guard in defending the Palestinian people and their lands and holy sites."
Previously senior Hamas officials also said any hope for political dialogue or settlement would be forever destroyed. “Palestinians would not accept these plans at all. They are going to resist these plans by all means available. Gaza is not excluded from this,” another official, Basem Naim, said.
Already the planned annexation has resulted in large protests this week in West Bank cities and towns.
It also appears the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) are making ready: “The upcoming events can develop into fighting in Gaza,” IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said as Israel braces for a possible new intifada. The IDF has essentially said 'we're ready to go'.
"I suggest that Hamas leaders remember that they will be the first to pay for any aggression," Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated Thursday. Gantz is also serving as 'alternate PM' as part of the power-sharing agreement with Netanyahu. He further underscored that Israel "will not accept threats".
The Palestinians from the start have rejected the Trump peace plan, given it allows Israel to annex up to 30% to 40% of the West Bank, including all of East Jerusalem, and further the Palestinian Authority (PA) has claimed it was never ultimately invited to the table as an equal part to negotiations, but that Israel has gotten everything it wants without sacrificing anything.