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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Israeli annexation would end Palestinian hopes of statehood

The largest formal seizure of land from the Palestinians since the 1947 to 1948 Arab-Israeli war will make a two-state solution along pre-1967 borders impossible.
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Israel’s deadline day for its long-repeated threat to annex the occupied-West Bank is here, despite widespread international opposition to what is its biggest formal land grab since the 1947 to 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

If a decision is taken on Wednesday (Israel has hinted it will be delayed) to formalise decades of two-tier rule in the occupied Palestinian territory, it will see millions of Palestinians ultimately subject to Israeli military law and Jewish Israeli settlers living according to Israeli civil jurisdiction.

It would also makes a viable Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders impossible. As things stand, 60 percent of the occupied West Bank is directly controlled by Israel, which has designated it Area C.

This control deprives Palestinians in the West Bank of any land border with a state that is not Israel and leaves territory left under Palestinian Authority (PA) control divided by Israeli access roads, checkpoints, and other occupation installations.

It also irreversibly denies Palestinians access to water resources and prime agricultural land.

Netanyahu’s initial annexation is likely to include territory falling under Area C, which includes the Jordan Valley and territory encircling occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has in the past threatened to dissolve the PA should the annexation go ahead but the aged leader has made threats before that he has not upheld despite no Israeli concession. These include his threats to resign from the presidency and to stop all security cooperation with the Israelis.

Nevertheless, the stakes have never been higher for the PA, which was set up following the Oslo Accords with the aim of transitioning into the governing apparatus upon Palestinian independence from Israel.

Despite Abbas’s threat and international condemnation, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is adamant his decision will advance the cause of peace.

Speaking days before the annexation, Netanyahu said: “Applying Israeli law to areas of Judea and Samaria that will remain part of Israel in any future peace deal will not set back the cause of peace; it will advance peace.” 

The terms Judea and Samaria are used by the Israelis to refer to the occupied West Bank.

Although Israel’s Arab allies, such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have publicly rejected the annexation plans, the Israeli leader said he was confident their burgeoning relationship would remain unaffected.

“As Israel moves forward, I will continue to work to strengthen those ties. I’m confident that together we can build a future of reconciliation and peace.” Netanyahu told Israelis in a televised address on Sunday.

International reactions

While optimistic about the reaction of his Arab friends, Netanyahu can be less sure about how others will react internationally.

The European Union had public mulled punitive measures in the event of Israel proceeding with the annexation, as far back as May.

“Annexation is not in line with international law. If it goes ahead, the EU will act accordingly,” Peter Stano, the EU’s foreign policy spokesperson, said at the time, but again whether the EU or its constituent states follow through on the threats is not clear. 

Israeli allies, such as Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Greece, Latvia, Cyprus, and Poland, are opposed to any unilateral action on the part of the EU against the Israelis.

Also prior to the annexation, Turkey had condemned the move, with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu calling on Israel not to “proceed with its illegal annexation plans.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had also urged Netanyahu not to proceed.

“I call upon Israel to abandon its annexation plans,” he said, warning the move would “threaten efforts to advance regional peace.”

Without tacit acceptance by the Trump administration, the annexation would never have gone ahead but the signs are that not everyone in the US is happy.

Israel once enjoyed unfaltering support among both Republicans and Democrats but more recently only the former is willing to provide unconditional support.

Frontrunner for the 2020 presidential contest, Joe Biden, remains a stalwart supporter of Israel but is opposed to the annexation. The Democrat presidential nominee has not made clear how his stance would change after the fact but has warned he would reverse Trump era policies not conducive to eventual peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

At an online fundraising event in May, the former vice president said Israel needed to “stop the threat of annexation and stop settlement activity because it’ll choke off any hope of peace.”

Brazenly ignoring Biden’s stance may therefore have consequences further down the line should he be elected to the White House.

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