Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement this week – that the target date for beginning the annexation of West Bank territory is still July 1 – shows that in the diplomatic arena as well, he is determined to barge head-on into reality, no matter what the cost.
Israel stands on the verge of altering the definition of its boundaries as recognized by the international community in 1948. But the sprint toward annexation would not just be a gross violation of international law. Unilateral annexation would embroil Israel in a diplomatic confrontation with most of the world, and the EU in particular; it could undermine Israel’s relations with the U.S. administration should Donald Trump fail to be reelected; it would perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it would endanger the peace treaty with Jordan; and above all it would shut the door to any chances of good relations with neighboring Arab states.
Bibi’s slash-and-burn strategy puts Israel on trial
Unlike the annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, the West Bank is home to three million Palestinians who have become accustomed to living with the occupation as long as a glimmer of hope remained for the establishment of a Palestinian state in which they could live as full-fledged citizens in their own land.
On the basis of this hope, the Palestinians maintain close security and civilian cooperation that is very helpful to Israel, though this is already becoming destabilized and threatening the survival of the Palestinian Authority. Without the PA, even if a largescale intifada does not erupt, annexation of parts of the West Bank could make Israel responsible yet again for managing the Palestinians’ daily affairs, and not only in the annexed territory, with all the military and economic ramifications that would entail.
Despite its various failings, the Trump plan does recognize the need to reach a negotiated diplomatic setttlement between Israel and the Palestinians. This plan has so far been rejected by the Palestinian leadership which views it as the last nail in the coffin of Palestinian independence. But one would have expected President Trump to at least make it plain to Israel that a unilateral step such as this goes against the very heart of his plan, which was years in the making.
The Netanyahu government intends to annex the future of Israel’s citizens and hold them hostage to a messianic, lunatic and dangerous idea that will guarantee more violence to generations to come. Benny Gantz’s partnership in the Netanyahu government is supposed to rein in the unbridled settler-driven agenda that is dictating the annexation move. This is the time for him and his colleagues to draw a red line, to publicly make an unwavering stand and proclaim loudly and clearly that annexation cannot coexist with peace agreements or with the desire to advance toward a peaceful solution.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.