Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Israel may delay its controversial West Bank annexation plan after Benny Gantz says July 1 date isn’t “sacred,” India bans Chinese apps as feud continues, and pressure grows on the White House in Russian bounty case.
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Gantz Suggest Delaying Israel’s Annexation Plans
Tensions in Israel’s coalition government have come to the fore days before a planned July 1 vote on annexing parts of the West Bank.
On Monday, Blue and White party leader and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz told U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and White House representative Avi Berkowitz that the July 1 date was not “sacred” and that he was more concerned about the coronavirus pandemic.
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud party members that the issue was “not up to” Gantz’s party. “They are not a factor either way,” he added.
Will the U.S. give the green light to annexation? After a week of internal White House deliberations ended without a clear resolution, it’s not yet known whether the United States backs Netanyahu’s intended timeline for annexation—even though annexation itself is already approved in the White House peace plan.
“There is yet no final decision on next steps for implementing the Trump plan,” a senior administration official told NBC News on June 26.
U.N. leads condemnation. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet led international condemnation of the move. “Annexation is illegal. Period,” she said in a statement. “Any annexation. Whether it is 30 percent of the West Bank, or 5 percent.”
“The precise consequences of annexation cannot be predicted,” she added. “But they are likely to be disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself, and for the wider region.”
The Middle East impact. Writing in Foreign Policy, Ariane Tabatabai and Henry Rome argue that Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank would be a gift to Iran, which is now desperate for a way to distract its citizens from a resurgent coronavirus epidemic and sanctions-induced economic hardship.
One thing that annexation is unlikely to halt is the pace of warming ties between Gulf nations and Israel, Jonathan Ferziger writes, as security, technology, and medical cooperation take precedence over politics and the Palestinian cause.
What We’re Following Today
Pressure grows in Russian bounty case. The White House is under increasing pressure to provide answers regarding reports of a Russian military intelligence-sponsored program offering cash bounties to Afghan militants for killing U.S. and coalition forces, FP’s Jack Detsch, Robbie Gramer, and Amy Mackinnon report.
On Monday, the Trump administration relented somewhat by providing a briefing on the issue to Republican House lawmakers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi requested an interagency briefing for the full House of Representatives. “The questions that arise are: was the President briefed, and if not, why not, and why was Congress not briefed. Congress and the country need answers now,” she wrote in a letter to CIA Director Gina Haspel and Trump’s new director of national intelligence, John Ratcliffe. On Monday night, the New York Times reported that U.S. President Donald Trump was provided a written briefing on the bounty program as early as February.
India goes digital in China feud. India has retaliated against China after its border clash on June 15 by banning 59 Chinese-made apps, including the popular apps TikTok and WeChat. Tiktok has at least 200 million monthly users in India, which is one of the company’s largest user bases. It’s unclear how Indian authorities plan to ban the apps, as they were still available for download for both Android and Apple devices after the ban was announced.
TikTok, owned by the Chinese firm ByteDance, has also made inroads in the U.S. market in recent months, especially with teenagers and members of Generation Z. Hoping to stave off privacy concerns raised by members of Congress, TikTok named former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as its CEO and ByteDance’s chief operations officer in May.
Separatists attack Pakistan Stock Exchange. At least ten people were killed on Monday in an attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi. The dead included four of the assailants, who carried machine guns and threw a grenade at the stock exchange entrance during the assault. The separatist Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack.
Pompeo condemns China’s treatment of Uighurs. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described reports of a campaign of population control among China’s Uighur minority as “shocking” and “disturbing” and called for an end to “these dehumanizing abuses.” The remarks come after two investigations—one by the Associated Press and another by researcher and Foreign Policy contributor Adrian Zenz—were published on Sunday pointing to an increase in sterilizations, high rates of enforced contraception, and a corresponding decrease in population growth in Xinjiang.
Putting a price on health. Gilead Sciences, the company behind the drug Remdesivir, has announced a global pricing scheme for its potential coronavirus treatment. Gilead plans to charge governments in developed countries $390 a vial, or $2,340 for a five-day regimen of the drug. The advocacy group Public Citizen called the price point “offensive,” arguing that Remdesivir could cost as little as $1 a day if manufactured in large quantities and sold as a generic drug.
Europe sours on global powers. A new poll from the European Council of Foreign Relations shows the extent of the damage the coronavirus pandemic has wrought on attitudes toward the United States. The decline was most dramatic in Germany, Denmark, and Portugal where at least 65 percent of respondents said that their view of the United States had worsened during the pandemic. It’s not just bad news for U.S.-Europe relations; Russia and China also suffered reputational damage, according to the poll.
Israeli regulators have revoked the broadcasting license of an evangelical Christian television station for misrepresenting its mission. Ward Simpson, the CEO of God TV and the station’s owner, had attracted the scrutiny of regulators after appearing in a fundraising video after the license was granted saying “God has supernaturally opened the door for us to take the gospel of Jesus into the homes and lives and hearts of his Jewish people.” He later clarified that he was not trying to convert Jews; he was simply seeking to get them to accept Jesus as their messiah.
Israel’s Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council said that the station had broken laws against proselytizing to minors, which is against Israeli law without parental consent. Regulators said God TV is welcome to reapply for a license if it vows to describe the nature of its broadcasts more honestly.
That’s it for today.
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