Opinion

Nobody Really Wants the Annexation. Not Even the Israeli Settlers

Shlomo sand
Shlomo Sand
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A Jewish settler walks past Israeli settlement construction sites around Givat Zeev and Ramat Givat Zeev in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, near Jerusalem June 30, 2020.
A Jewish settler walks past Israeli settlement construction sites around Givat Zeev and Ramat Givat Zeev in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, near Jerusalem June 30, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Shlomo sand
Shlomo Sand

Faced with the daring gamble that U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are taking on annexing part of the West Bank, three different political blocs have risen up to oppose it. If we want to understand the Israel of 2020 and the unimportant political game being played there, we must distinguish between these blocs and grasp their characteristics.

The first consists of the vast majority of the settlers and their enthusiastic supporters within pre-1967 Israel. They rightly see the impending annexation as containing a threat, because according to Trump’s plan, it may well entail the future concession of a sacred portion of the Land of Israel.

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If it happens, annexation might, heaven forbid, create a Bantustan Palestinian state in the heart of the Jews’ historical homeland. The city of Nablus, which was so dear to our forefathers; Bethlehem, the place where our foremother Rachel was buried; and worst of all, Hebron, the city of our patriarch Abraham, might all be handed over to the rule of foreigners – admittedly, not uncircumcised ones, but still non-Jews.

Wasn’t it enough that in 1948, we gave up the eastern portion of the Land of Israel, aka Jordan? Don’t we deserve thanks for the fact that we still haven’t expelled the Palestinian invaders from the western portion of the Land of Israel? The current annexation plan is thin and scanty. Even the former politician and general Yigal Allon and his loyal supporters on the Zionist left would have been ashamed to support it.

The second bloc, which is the complete antithesis of the first, vehemently opposes any annexation. It includes the majority of the liberal humanists who also vehemently oppose the occupation.

They fear, rightly, that an annexation of part of the West Bank, like the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem (“the reunified city”), won’t include granting citizenship to the annexed natives. Isn’t it enough that 400,000 people, fully 39 percent of the residents of Jerusalem, have not been citizens with equal rights for 53 years already, yet nobody utters a peep about this in the Knesset, which is within spitting distance of where they live?

Moreover, annexing the Jordan Valley and various other areas would prevent any future agreement involving mutual recognition and any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state. This is a highway to the creation of a Jewish apartheid state that would undermine Israel’s existence as a democratic and Jewish state in the May 1967 borders, which may be “slightly” adjusted but are very fair.

The third bloc of annexation opponents is the largest one. It includes all the people who are at peace with the occupation, but fear that annexation will undermine the tranquility and comfort of our lives to date (or at least prior to the coronavirus).

After all, the Palestinians have grown used to living without sovereignty or civil rights for half a century now. And without this unnecessary idea of annexation, which Trump brought down on us from Washington, they might well have lived this way, with God’s help, for at least another half a century.

And why not? After all, their lives are better than those of Syria’s bombed-out citizens, or the Palestinian refugees and their many descendants living in Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.

True, the world grumbles, but it accepts the occupation and has even gotten used to it. Despite all the liberal prattle, Europeans aren’t really interested in the Palestinians’ human rights. Moreover, eastern Europeans, who used to be antisemites, have changed their spots and are now enthusiastic about our admirably sensible attitude toward Muslims.

The fact that since 1945, the world has been unwilling to accord legality to forcible, arbitrary border changes of so much as a meter might complicate our continued presence in Judea and Samaria, as well as our project of expanding the settlements, which has continued with the open or secret encouragement of all Israeli governments.

Our early Zionist patriarchs (not the Biblical ones) understood quite well that realizing the Zionist dream and making the desert bloom was accomplished through a sophisticated strategy of “one more dunam, one more goat,” not by an irresponsible tactic of “all in one go.” That’s how we built a glorious Jewish state, and that’s how we’ll expand it, with flexibility and cunning.

After all, in the meantime, many Palestinians will gradually abandon Judea and Samaria. Their elites are already doing so now. Thus the demographic ratio will gradually improve. At the same time, we must strive to continue stressing our unique historical past rather than the unique politics that currently serves us in the territory of our homeland, which we know for certain was always ours and will be ours forever.

Each of my readers can of course choose to identify with any of these blocs or draw new boundaries to describe other blocs. But I cannot restrain myself from adding (and I apologize to my refined readers) that the third bloc reminds me of the man drowning in a pool of excrement who, when he hits the bottom, can barely manage to open his mouth to whisper a prayer: “Don’t make waves.”

Shlomo Sand is a historian and author of the Hebrew-language book “Imaginary Race.”

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