All you need to know about Israel’s latest annexation plan in Palestine
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explains his annexation plan to reporters. (Photo: Video Grab, Courtesy NBC News)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce Israel’s annexation of nearly 30 percent of the total size of the Occupied Palestinian West Bank.
The move is considered a stark violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, but Israel is moving forward with the plan because of the unconditional support it is receiving from the Donald Trump Administration.
What is annexation?
Annexation is the term used when a state decides to unilaterally declare and transfer its political, legal, and military sovereignty over a portion of land belonging to another state.
After World War II, the United Nations resoundingly rejected the practice, proclaiming annexation through military force to be illegal. A recent example was Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014. While the US vehemently rejected the Russian move, it is fully embracing the Israeli one.
Why is Israel keen on annexing parts of the West Bank?
Over the last few months, Netanyahu repeatedly promised to annex parts of the Palestinian territories. This includes large swathes of the already occupied West Bank and parts of the strategic Jordan Valley.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s pledge, at first appeared to be a desperate move to appeal to the fractured rightwing constituency, following three Israeli general elections in one year.
At first, Netanyahu spoke about annexing the Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law anyway, because they are built on occupied and stolen Palestinian land.
But the idea began to take form in a tangible way following the Trump Administration’s announcement of the so-called Deal of the Century on January 28, which allows Israel to seize parts of the occupied Palestinian territories, and grants Palestinians a ‘state’ on the disjointed parts of whatever remains of the West Bank.
What changes on the ground will annexation bring?
Annexing approximately a third of the occupied West Bank means that Israel would officially consider the newly-annexed Palestinian land as part of the Israeli state, similar to Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in 1980 and 1981 respectively.
Annexation also means that some 4.5% of the Palestinian population of the West Bank will be living in isolated enclaves within the annexed territories.
As far as the so-called peace process is concerned, even the most compromising Palestinian leadership will find it difficult, if at all possible, to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel when much of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, are no longer part of the negotiations.
How did the international community react to Israel’s annexation plan?
United Nations: “International law is very clear: Annexation and territorial conquest are forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations,” Michael Lynk, the UN independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories said on June 20. “Annexation is illegal. Period,” the UN Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on June 29. She added that “Any annexation. Whether it is 30 percent of the West Bank or five percent,” is also illegal, urging Israel to “listen to its own former senior officials and generals, as well as to the multitude of voices around the world, warning it not to proceed along this dangerous path.”
United States: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on April 22 that it was up to Israel whether to annex parts of the West Bank or not, saying that Washington would offer its views but only in private to the Israeli government. “As for the annexation of the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions … That’s an Israeli decision. And we will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in (a) private setting,” Pompeo told reporters. The American Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, said in an interview with the ‘Israel Hayom’ daily newspaper on May 6 that Washington is ready to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the ‘disputed areas’ should Netanyahu move forward with his annexation plan. “We are not declaring sovereignty, but rather Israel, and then we are ready to recognize it,” Friedman said.
European Union: EuroNews reported on June 24 that more than 1,000 lawmakers from 25 European countries signed a statement opposing any unilateral Israeli annexation of West Bank territory. The legislators expressed support for the stance of European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that annexation “could not pass unchallenged.” The European parliamentarians’ statement expressed “serious concerns” about the Trump Administration’s ‘peace plan’ for Israel and the Palestinians and the imminent prospect of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory. The European Union’s top diplomat had warned Israel on May 19 against annexation, insisting that the EU will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines not agreed upon in the various peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians. “International law is a fundamental pillar of the international rules-based order. In this respect, the EU and its member states recall that they will not recognize any changes to the 1967 borders unless agreed by Israelis and Palestinians,” Borrell said.
The Arab League: The head of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned on June 24 at a high-level UN meeting that Israel’s annexation of parts of the West Bank would inflame tensions and endanger peace in the Middle East, and could ignite “a religious war in and beyond our region”. Gheit, secretary-general of the 22-member organization, said annexation will also have “broader ramifications on international security around the world”. “If implemented, Israeli annexation plans would not only be detrimental to the chances of peace today but will destroy any prospects for peace in the future,” he said.
China: For its part, China rejected Israel’s annexation plans. Speaking in an interview with the official Palestinian news agency WAFA, the Chinese ambassador to Palestine Guo Wei repeated his country’s rejection of Israel annexation of Occupied West Bank land and of any unilateral measures that undermine peace and stability. Earlier, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called, at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s video conference on June 24, for a just and comprehensive solution to the Question of Palestine. “The Palestine issue has always been at the core of the Middle East issue and a just and reasonable solution is a prerequisite for the region’s lasting peace and security,” Wang said. (Courtesy: The Palestine Chronicle)