Palestinian Authority Sees Netanyahu’s Annexation Chances Dwindling After September

In closed discussions, PA officials believe likelihood of annexation will decline with the approach of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the U.S. election

Jack Khoury
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Israeli border guards stop a Palestinian demonstrator from crossing a barrier during a rally to protest the plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, Haris, West Bank, July 24, 2020.
Israeli border guards stop a Palestinian demonstrator from crossing a barrier during a rally to protest the plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, Haris, West Bank, July 24, 2020.Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP
Jack Khoury

Senior Palestinian Authority officials have recently said in closed meetings that if Israel does not carry out its plan to annex territory in the West Bank by the end of September, the window of opportunity for annexation will have been narrowed.

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They said that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ends his public support for the move, talks could begin on resuming full security and economic cooperation with Israel.

A recent assessment conducted in the PA and presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suggests a number of scenarios, all based on the determination that if Netanyahu and the Trump administration still intend to carry out any annexation plan, it will presumably happen between mid-August and mid-September. The assumption is that the likelihood of annexation will decline with the approach of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the U.S. election, scheduled for September 15-20 and November 3, respectively.

Israeli officials, however, say a token or partial declaration of annexation close to November 3 cannot be ruled out. They add that it will depend on the political circumstances of Netanyahu and of President Donald Trump, both of whom may make unexpected decisions under pressure.

Officials in Jerusalem and Ramallah say Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley is least likely to be met, in light of Jordan’s opposition. In talks between Palestinian decision-makers and Western and other Arab figures, the idea was raised that Netanyahu might carry out a limited unilateral move in the settlement blocs. Such a move, however, would require the approval of the White House which has conditioned its okay on Kahol Lavan agreeing to the move. Kahol Lavan has said it would sign off on it only if thorough groundwork of the type that hasn’t been done is completed.

Not only has this groundwork, on the legal, security and foreign-policy implications of annexation not been done, but agreement is also lacking between Israel and the White House over the percentage of West Bank territory that would be annexed and what possible compensation would be offered to Palestinian land owners. These issues are also part of Kahol Lavan’s conditions, which are aimed at ensuring that any annexation is done by agreement and is not as a one-sided move.

In addition, both the Palestinians and the Israelis believe that as long as the coronavirus pandemic goes on uncontrolled in Israel and in the United States, leaders in Jerusalem and in Washington will avoid initiatives that residents in either country might criticize as superfluous at this time.

Despite all the signs that seem to be pointing away from Israeli annexation, the PA is in no hurry to announce a resumption of full coordination with Israel as long as Netanyahu keeps talking up the plan. Messages in this vein were conveyed to foreign leaders who have recently spoken to Abbas.

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