Opinion |

Israeli Lawmaker Miki Zohar Wants to Annex the West Bank, What on Earth Is People's Problem With Him?

If extraterrestrials landed in the West Bank they wouldn't believe it was not part of Israel.

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MK Miki Zohar.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

What on earth is the problem people have with Miki Zohar? What provoked the frothing rage on one hand, the astonishment and ridicule on the other? Zohar proposed that Israel annex the West Bank while giving Palestinians civil rights minus the right to vote for the Knesset. This is what Israel has done in practice since capturing the territories in 1967. Zohar even proposes improving their conditions. He talks of full rights other than participating in elections. Right now they don’t vote but also don’t enjoy full rights. Far from it.

Zohar is 37-years-old, a young Knesset member. He was born into a reality of occupation and settlements, just like everyone else who was born here or came here in the last 50 years. He is the classic case of the little boy pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. Occasionally someone comes along and speaks the naked truth. He should be thanked. Instead, people are assailing him, treating him like an alien being or someone who’s lost touch with reality. But sometimes it may take extraterrestrial beings to disrupt the masquerade ball. The attitude of Israel and its citizens to the occupation is just that – one long masquerade ball.

It doesn’t matter if for legal, diplomatic or political reasons the territories were never “annexed.” If an extraterrestrial being landed there and you told it that this was not part of Israel, it wouldn’t understand what you were talking about. Israel built well over 100 settlements there, filling them with hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. It imposed Israeli law on these settlements. Whatever transpires there is under the Knesset’s jurisdiction, as well as that of Israel’s police and legal systems.

Two Supreme Court justices live there, as well as cabinet ministers, the Knesset speaker and other Knesset members, as well as a host of government officials. The Electric Corporation provides electricity, the Mekorot national water company supplies water, the National Roads Company looks after roads and the National Lottery erects and manages public buildings. Factories, businesses and services operate there without limits, including schools and a university that are under the Ministry of Education’s supervision. State-funded cultural institutions are compelled to perform in every settlement. Kiryat Arba is subject to the same rules as Kiryat Shmona.

Israeli flag on a hill near the West Bank settlement of Elazar, near Bethlehem.Credit: Reuters

Meanwhile, Palestinians in those areas are also subject to Israeli law, but Israeli military law with military courts and directives issued by the regional military commander. These are the Israel Defense Forces, not the Belgian army. The Civil Administration is also Israeli, as is the Coordinator of Activities in the Territories, and the Border Police that protect our borders. The intelligence agency overseeing the area is the Shin Bet, responsible for internal intelligence, not the Mossad, which is in charge of intelligence gathering and foiling attacks outside Israel.

This week, in perfect timing with Zohar’s stated vision, the Knesset decided to bar anyone calling for a boycott of Israel or the settlements from entering Israel. That unequivocally makes the settlements part of Israel. This is what annexation looks like. Just like the maintaining of two populations within a given area under two separate legal systems, enjoying different rights, is called apartheid. Apartheid means separation.

You may say that this is only temporary, while Zohar, crazy man, talked about a permanent solution. When does temporary officially become permanent? Apparently 50 years of annexation and apartheid aren’t enough. Maybe 75 will do, or the centennial? Maybe it’s best to pick a symbolic legal-judicial date such as 2028, when settler Noam Sohlberg becomes Supreme Court president?

Sanctifying the status quo was once the province of the right (it was called “managing the conflict” or “shrapnel in the butt”). Now the head of the opposition, Isaac Herzog, is presenting a plan based on postponing dealing with the issue for 10 years. The political vision of the shadow prime minister, Yair Lapid, amounts to “getting the Palestinians out of our face.” Who is actually delusional here, these two cowards or Miki Zohar?