Opinion

Netanyahu's Allies Know Annexation Will Not Happen

Akiva Eldar
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Gabi Ashkenazi, left, and Benny Gantz.Credit: Daniel Bar On
Akiva Eldar

Just as the American president outdoes himself in rashness and stupidity by touting the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a magic medication for the coronavirus, in Israel his fictitious “peace plan” is being touted as a magic formula to solve the Israeli-Arab conflict. Kahol Lavan leaders Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi both hailed it during their takeover ceremonies at the Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry respectively. Gantz pledged to work towards implementation of “all aspects of the Trump administration peace plan”. Ashkenazi for his part dubbed the plan “a historic opportunity to shape Israel’s future for decades to come.”

These two retired IDF chiefs of staff are no dummies. They know that “the plan” isn’t worth the paper that was wasted on writing and analyzing it. They are just the barbed wire that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to step on while retreating from the trouble of the annexation law to the bad old creeping annexation. The signs that the “Trump plan” is, as they say in Arabic, kalam fadi, empty talk, are glaring. You needn’t be a lieutenant general to know that no Palestinian leader would ever sign off on a map that looks like Swiss cheese. It’s hard to believe that two generals with such extensive experience in controlling the Palestinian people would think for a second that any of their leaders would accept "Bantustans" that don’t even control the air above them and agree to call this a state.

They therefore composed, along with Netanyahu, the section of the coalition agreement saying that applying Israeli sovereignty to areas in the West Bank is contingent on maintaining regional stability and extant peace agreements, and on seeking future peace agreements. Any reasonable person would realize that unilateral annexation of the Jordan Valley will contribute to regional stability and to current and future peace agreements like regional war contributes to stability and peace.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presents his annexation plan.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Another booby-trap on the road to annexation lies in the “plan” itself. In exchange for the territories that Israel annexes in the West Bank, it will be required to give the Palestinians territories under Israeli sovereignty, along the Green Line border and the Halutza dunes. Netanyahu himself said in February that the Trump administration will only recognize the annexation after “the entire process is completed.” The “process” includes precise mapping by an American-Israeli team (without Palestinians) of the territory due to change hands. “We don’t want to imperil it,” Netanyahu declared. “We are working in a responsible manner.” What could be more responsible than his decision to appoint the newly minted Minister of Settlement Affairs Tzipi Hotovely as a member of the mapping team? She will certainly ensure that the work is thorough, however long it takes. This well-known peace activist will surely be pleased to be the first Israeli whose signature appears on a map that marks out which parts of the Holy Land will be handed over to the goyim.

Minister Rafi Peretz, a fellow member of the messianic camp who moved from Gush Katif to Moshav Naveh in the Halutza dunes, proclaimed that “Halutza and the communities in this stunning section of the country are part of Israel – and so they will remain.” This wandering Jew who roams from one political home to another needn’t worry. He can devote his full attention to the affairs of his new ministry (which one is it again?). A Basic Law passed by the Knesset in 2014 in order to thwart future territorial exchange states that “Relinquishing part of Israel’s sovereign territory requires a special majority of 80 members of Knesset or a national referendum.”

“When such a fateful decision is on the table, if we ever reach that point, it must be taken to the people,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said before the vote. “This is the only thing that can preserve the internal peace within our nation.”

“Internal peace” refers to the status quo on the issue of permanent borders and determining the status of the occupied population, in in addition to creating facts on the ground by means of de facto annexation that will thwart a final status accord, and transferring responsibility for civil affairs to Palestinian self-administration. The copyright on this patent belongs to Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Professor Arye Naor, the cabinet secretary for the first Likud government, revealed that in internal discussions in the early 1980s, Begin said that at the end of the five-year transition period stipulated in the Camp David accord, “we’ll propose applying the state’s law, jurisdiction and administration over all the territory of the Land of Israel and they (“the Arabs of the Land of Israel,” as he put it) will say – Absolutely not.” “What happens in that kind of situation?” Begin asked, and then immediately gave the answer: “Status quo.” The status quo, he explained, is autonomy. “And thus the autonomy that is established for a transition period could go on for a very, very long interim period.”

The “transition period” has already lasted 40 years. And over the years, creeping annexation evolved into galloping occupation. When Begin revealed his vision, the total number of settlers was about 12,000. Today close to 430,000 Jews live in the West Bank. The term “autonomy” was just replaced by the term “Palestinian Authority” – an entity that has been safeguarding the apartheid policy for more than a quarter century. So who needs the headache of applying sovereignty? Is anything really hindering us from further dispossessing the Palestinians and undercutting the possibility of a two-state solution? Why get into the whole mess of annexation?

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