Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun the process of fulfilling his electoral promise of seizing Palestinian territory by the first baby step of annexing the West Bank.
Though the Israeli government is yet to provide any official timeline for the actualization of the annexation, stiff opposition across the globe has begun against the move.
Annexation tends to refer to the absorption of a piece of land beyond the country’s border. It doesn’t take into account the wish of the people who reside on that land. International law terms annexation illegal. However, starting from Indonesia’s Timor occupation in 1975 to the recent Russian capture of Crimea in 2014, annexation has become a new normal in the geopolitics.
Israel is no amateur in the game of annexation; it took over East Jerusalem in 1980. Later in 1981, it annexed the Golan Heights, a previous Syrian territory.
The Current Plan
Israel’s rightist leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has time and again promised to “apply sovereignty” to different areas of West Bank during the elections. Over the last year, he had made two annexation attempts. The first was to take over the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and in September, he announced an intention to annex the whole Jordan Valley which accounts for one-third of the West Bank.
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However, the Israeli Government has complete authority in the places mentioned above, but no official sovereignty. The Palestinian officials believe that Israeli has been the de facto power in half of West Bank for years now. Over the last few decades, Israel has tactfully implanted robust civilian presence in the West Bank. As per the current data, West Bank and East Jerusalem have a total of 600,000 Jews residing in 140 settlements.
The Immediate Reasons
Though the annexation of West Bank has been on the agenda of Netanyahu for years, the timing is of much importance. Donald Trump, the United States President is often termed as “the greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House” by Netanyahu. As Trump’s current term is ending soon, Netanyahu doesn’t wish to waste any time. Through the American support, he believes, he can pacify much of global opposition.
In January, President Trump unveiled a planned ‘vision for peace.’ The plan talks about the peaceful existence of the two countries by handing over almost 70% of the West Bank and all of Gaza to Palestine. The plan encourages Palestine to have the capital of its territory beyond the borders of East Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority has rejected Trump’s mediation and said it was heavily biased towards Israel. Palestinians claim sovereignty over the whole of West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
Another reason why Netanyahu wishes to annex now is his electoral promises. In the election in January, he has made a power-sharing agreement with his political rival, Benny Gantz. The agreement allows Netanyahu to pursue annexation unilaterally while he is in the office.
The International Voice Matters
The most prominent outcome of the annexation would be a disturbance in Israel’s peace agreement with Jordan. The Jordanian King has already made clear that if Israel takes any step unilaterally, it would have to face resistance from him. The European Union, despite American support to Israel, has advised it against annexation. It has also threatened to impose economic sanctions if the need arises. Josep Borrell, foreign policy chief of the Union, said the bloc would use a diplomatic route to stop Israel’s any unilateral action.
During a recent visit to Jerusalem, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that by annexing West Bank, Israel would violate international laws. He added that Germany would be strongly objecting to it. Israel’s unilateral annexation would invite severe opposition from the Arab nations. Turkey has already objected to Israel’s move, saying if it crosses redline, it would have to face the consequences. Turkey’s statement during an OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) meeting adds weight to the issue.
Turkish Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, urged the OIC to augment diplomatic talks between the two nations as unilateral annexation would end the ‘two-state solution.’
Despite American support, Israel may be countered at international forums. Economic sanctions on the scale of Russian sanctions may come to the table.
In addition to the international opposition, Netanyahu’s announcement of the annexation of a part of West Bank has begun garnering resistance from Jewish settler leaders. The settlers argue that a partial annexation may end Israeli’s future expansion prospect in the West Bank. It may invite Palestinian state to the West Bank that would terminate Israel’s religious-Zionist project to take over the entire homeland of Jews.
Israel’s unilateral action is yet to get vocal support from Trump administration, and rising opposition to it from the EU may force Netanyahu to reconsider his options. Israel has long been sustaining a bitter relationship with the Middle-Eastern kingdoms, but a battered tie with the West is something Israel may never want.