Benny Gantz’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley in a speech on Tuesday isn’t new and it isn’t really a commitment to annex anything.

Over the span of the last two Israeli election campaigns, Gantz has raised Jordan Valley annexation in an attempt to establish credibility with right-wing voters without going too far. What is important in this instance is the sequence of events leading up to Gantz’s latest statement. Two weeks ago, Gantz met with American envoy Avi Berkowitz. The next day, Gantz related to a Kachol Lavan party meeting that he felt the Trump administration would be careful not to release its perennially delayed peace plan before the March 2 Knesset election “because such a move would be a real and harsh interference in the electoral process in Israel.”

Gantz doesn’t want a Trump proposal to see the light of day at any point during the election campaign. While the “ultimate deal’s” parameters, as well as its very existence, remain nebulous, the Trump administration’s record suggests anything coming from this White House would heavily favor Israel. It would lend credibility to Benjamin Netanyahu’s entreaties for Kachol Lavan to join the embattled prime minister in a unity government in order to realize a historic diplomatic opportunity. Yet as of early January, Gantz seemed to be under the impression that Washington would respect his wishes.

But last Monday U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien threw that logic by the wayside, affirming that the United States was not paying attention to the Israeli election calendar. O’Brien’s comments suggest either ignorance or dishonesty. The Trump peace plan was under discussion for two years before Israel entered a cycle of repeat elections; far from ignoring the Israeli political schedule, the Trump administration’s insistence on dredging up its proposal around election time suggests it is watching the Knesset campaign quite closely with an eye toward boosting Netanyahu.

This brings us back to Gantz. The Kachol Lavan leader could either continue bargaining with an American administration that is clearly acting in bad faith or try to play by the rules Netanyahu and his allies in the White House have laid out. Neither is a good option, but the former has already proven not to work. So Gantz is trying to regain the initiative: not only did he try to stake out a right-wing position on annexation, he made the curious claim that he wants to see the Trump plan released sooner rather than later.

It’s a bizarre inversion of Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan Speech, in which the prime minister disingenuously espoused support for a two-state solution in order to get a liberal Democratic administration off of his back. Now, a centrist prime ministerial hopeful is making vacuous right-wing promises to preempt pressure from a Republican White House. No right-wing Israeli leader believes Gantz wants to see Trump’s plan before election day or that he is proactively pursuing any kind of annexation. Jordan Valley settler leader David Elhyani quickly dismissed Gantz’s “empty” comments; the declaration was deliberately engineered to guarantee Gantz won’t go ahead with annexation. Gantz stating that he will absorb the occupied territory “in coordination with the international community” is a pretty firm promise annexation won’t happen on his watch considering no country supports West Bank annexation. And Gantz knows this: just hours after headlines about his comments broke, he instructed a WhatsApp group of Kachol Lavan MKs to re-read his statement, reassuring them that they would find no support for unilateral annexation.

But Netanyahu is desperate enough to think that letting even the most superficial politicking slide amounts to surrender. To the extent that Gantz’s comments are harmful, it is because they put pressure on an already paranoid prime minister to up the ante. Netanyahu already fired back at the Kachol Lavan chief, saying that he expected him to confirm he would support legislated annexation by tonight “unless Tibi vetoes you.” Netanyahu has long used the name of Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, head of the small Ta’al party, as a stand-in for Israeli Arabs writ large in order to delegitimize their involvement in Israeli politics. Netanyahu added that he would annex settlements across the entire West Bank, not just the Jordan Valley, a pledge recycled from the last election just like Gantz’s.

Kachol Lavan’s strategy here is safe and understandable, but as the tit-for-tat becomes protracted, the exchange will only grow more outlandish and vitriolic. Benny Gantz already seems to have concluded that relying on Trump is a losing bet. Neither the prime minister nor his challenger’s current maneuvering are likely to move many voters around, but the Kachol Lavan leader may inadvertently be giving undue airtime to West Bank annexation. The best thing Gantz can do is probably to let the issue go for now.