Annexation. It's the new buzzword in the lexicon of Israeli/Palestinian dialogue, the word everyone has been throwing around this past month. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone — from residents of the region to world leaders sitting in European capitals has something to say. Of course, the U.N. has also weighed in on annexation.
Technically, annexation is a legal term, but of late it has taken on political implications and emotional overtones. Annexation means forcibly applying the law of one state onto an area in another state. If the area is stateless, the area does not qualify (i.e. it cannot be annexed and, therefore, the definition of annexation does not apply to the Palestinians.)
The area in question right now is called the West Bank. Geographically, it is the area, or territory that gets its name from the area on the west bank of the Jordan River. In 1967, during the Six-Day War, the West Bank was taken in battle by Israel from Jordan. But before that, from 1948, the year that the State of Israel was created, until 1967, Jordan did not incorporate the Bank into Jordan. And even before that, before 1948, the West Bank was a British Colony.
Israel has been discussing the annexation of the West Bank for a long time. The discussions have never been anything short of heated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, freshly sworn in for his fifth consecutive term in office, has decided that now is the time. He has repeatedly said that his plan is to apply Israeli law to major parts of the West Bank. Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's partner in what is now a unity government, has publicly stated that he supports annexation. If the annexation goes through as planned, it will end the possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
The prime minister has given himself a schedule to begin the discussion in the Israeli cabinet. He says that he will bring the debate to the government and flesh out the issues on July 1. He has a start date only, he has given no deadline for conclusions or decisions.
The decision to annex has not been well received by almost the entire world. Vocal and vociferous opposition and a rejection of the idea, let alone the plan, has been widespread. The almost universal critique we are hearing is that if the West Bank is annexed by Israel it will not only end the possibility of a two-state solution, it will, more importantly, destroy the possibility of a Palestinian State.
To date three nations are on record supporting Israel's decision — The United States, Austria and Hungary. Interestingly, presidential hopeful, Joe Biden has made it clear that he is not in favor.
Palestinians choose the doomsday scenario. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas officially announced that all treaties and agreements with Israel and with the United States are no longer valid and Palestine is no longer bound by those agreements. He is not waiting to see if the government of Netanyahu passes the plan — the agreements are no longer valid.
The U.S. State Department issued a clear statement saying: "As we have made consistently clear, we are prepared to recognize Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the West Bank that the vision foresees as being part of the State of Israel." The statement went on to say that the United States insists that the move be done "in the context of the Government of Israel agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinians along the lines set forth in President Trump's Vision." Trump's plan has already been rejected by the Palestinians.
Jordan, a close ally of the West and one of only two Arab states to sign a peace treaty with Israel, has said that they predict that annexation would have a destructive impact on their relationship with Israel. Of late, the relationship between Israel and Jordan has gone from tepid to downright cold. And in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, King Abdullah II of Jordan expressed his concerns and intentions.
He said: "What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexed the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan ... I don't want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of strength should not apply in the Middle East."
Abdullah was echoing the sentiment of the European Union which, while divided on their individual relationships with Israel, will, according to E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell "use all our diplomatic capacities in order to prevent any kind of unilateral action.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu has his own agenda. He wants to placate his political allies who feel abandoned by his unity government. He also wants to fulfill his ideological principles by applying Israeli law to areas of the West Bank. As a prime minister, Netanyahu has never shied away from controversy.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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