Choose Your Annexationist

Protest against annexation in Tel Aviv on February 1, 2020.
Meged Gozani

The support of Kahol Lavan’s left-leaning MK Ofer Shelah for U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan is a bad sign for those who hoped Shelah’s party would be a political alternative to the right-wing regime, and not just a job placement program.

In his remarks this week, Shelah did express vehement objection to the transfer of territories in the Triangle and Wadi Ara, calling that clause “obscene” and promising that if Kahol Lavan gains power it will be stricken from the agenda. But in the same breath Shelah declared that the “vision” presented by Trump and his team “is my vision.” He described that vision as “a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel that preserves Israel’s security interests.”

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One has to play innocent really hard to come up with such a description for a plan that circumvents Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech from the right and essentially adopts the religious Zionist narrative. The frog that Israel will supposedly be forced to swallow to get everything it had ever asked for is conditioned on a series of demands that no Palestinian leader is likely to accept anytime soon. The vision may be of a two-state vision, but in practice it is America’s acceptance of unilateral annexation, though probably only after the March 2 election.

It’s not just Shelah. Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz declared last week, “The peace plan accurately reflects the basic principles written in the Kahol Lavan platform,” and that he would work to “realize all its parts.” While he objected to immediate annexation, adding that “Hasty and irresponsible steps that aren’t coordinated with Jordan, Egypt and the moderate Arab states put the ability to implement it at risk,” he also said he intended to bring the plan to the Knesset for a vote.

On Monday, Kahol Lavan’s No. 4, Gabi Ashkenazi, praised the plan and described it as “an opportunity to make history and shape Israel in a way that matches our vision.” Ashkenazi did add the caveat that “applying sovereignty has to be a coordinated process. It can’t be done without dialogue with our neighbors.” Still, with positions like those of Ashkenazi, Shelah and Gantz, who even needs Kahol Lavan’s right-wing faction?

It’s sad to realize that the two main political alternatives in Israel have adopted the discourse of annexation and sovereignty, and that in a month the public will be asked to decide who will carry out the imposition of Israeli law on the settlements and the Jordan Valley. It’s sad to realize that there is no political force in Israel that can stop the slide down the dangerous path of annexation that was forged by an irresponsible U.S. president. A true alternative to a right-wing government must say clearly that annexation is a choice between a binational state and apartheid, and that anyone not interested in either of those options must oppose annexation.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.