Thousands of Israeli demonstrators protested last Saturday in Tel Aviv against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. This is a step that Israel has always wanted despite the lack of international backing and the UN Security Council Resolution 242 calling for Israel’s withdrawal from territories it occupied in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Israeli left-wing groups organised the protest that boasted Palestinian flags and banners, and openly rejected Netanyahu’s plan. Those who came called for peace and democracy, and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
A recent opinion poll shows that Israelis are divided when it comes to the annexation, while observers see the plan as coming at a time when Netanyahu wants to distract Israelis from the coronavirus crisis and exploit the unconditional support of US President Donald Trump before the forthcoming American elections in November.
Trump recently unveiled a peace plan that would allow Israel to keep its settlements and a Palestinian state under stringent conditions.
For many regional observers, Saturday’s demonstration carried significant weight. It not only depicted a changing discourse within the Israeli left — which has now begun to replace the word ‘occupation’ of Palestine with aparthied — but also displayed an urgency of keeping its ‘alliance’ with a section of Palestinians.
“While the Jewish left is certainly decreasing in numbers, those who remain view an alliance with Palestinian citizens as a fundamental principle,” writes Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport in a Tel Aviv-based left-leaning magazine +972.
Speaking to TRT World, Jessica Montell, an Israeli Human Rights activist, sees the annexation being enacted because “Trump has given the green light for Netanyahu, who is on trial and fighting for his political future.”
“The consequences and reactions depend on what Netanyahu is annexing, will he include all of the Jordan Valley area? Or only Maale Adumim settlement? And how will he go about it? The future of PA and relation with Israel has already been affected before implementing the plan,” she added.
Some European and Arab states, together with the United Nations, warned that taking this step would create violence and urged Israel not to annex its settlements in the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.
Israel has already had tense relations with Turkey over a range of issues. The annexation would make them worse. Turkey has repeatedly slammed Israel for violating the international law since 1948 and accused them of acting against UN resolutions by engaging in all illegal practices on Palestinian land. There are renewed tensions between Erdogan and Netanyahu.
A decade ago, the two leaders exchanged barbs over the crisis of Mavi Marmara, the Turkish Freedom Flotilla for Gaza that was attacked by Israel.
The UN resolutions, used as reference by the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict, call for an independent state of Palestine in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
However, Israel, empowered by the US administration, has kept expanding settlements in the West Bank and will commence annexation on 1 July regardless of the UN resolutions or the Palestinian position that rejects the plan.
It is unclear yet how Netanyahu plans to present and implement all of this. Israel is declaring the occupied territories as part of its own country, replacing the military role with a more official title. It’s not the first unilateral step taken by Israel against Palestine, violating international norms. The country has previously annexed the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, transgressing all treaties and laws.
For the Israeli’s left, the annexation would destroy the two-state solution and lead to a one state system that would endanger the Jewish identity of Israel with a discriminatory legal system for Palestinians.
Last year, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States no longer defines the settlements as necessarily violating international law, and that Israel is free to define its own legal status.
Orit Perlov, an Israeli researcher and analyst, thinks Netanyahu wants to deliver on the promise of annexing the West Bank which he repeatedly made during the election campaign last year.
“It doesn’t seem that Palestinians in annexed areas will have equal rights. It will also damage Israel’s partnership with the PA.”
“For Netanyahu it’s an opportunity to change the dynamics at a time when the US is fully supporting him. At the same time, Jordan, Egypt, the GCC states and even the Palestinian street are all engaged with Covid-19 virus, unemployment, closed stores, economic recession. The world is dealing with energy crisis and foreign policy is going to isolation, that all will reduce the reaction on the Israeli (annexation) step,” he explained.
In past decades, Israel expanded its settlements in the West Bank and connected them with Israel by infrastructure to create a de-facto annexation. Israeli laws are applied to settlers in West Bank settlements.
At the same time, it imposed restrictions on and over the demolition of Palestinian construction in Area C (60 percent of the West Bank under Israeli military control).
The PA is taking several steps against the Israeli plan. The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, declared an end of the security cooperation with Israel. Palestinians are also taking diplomatic steps within the UN; they are seeking a resolution that essentially condemns the Israeli annexation plan. Israel would, no doubt, respond forcefully because any resolution made against them in the Security Council, would mostly be faced by an American veto. As a result, the Palestinians are expected to take the condemnation resolution to the General Assembly.
Source: TRT world.