Editorial

Indicted Netanyahu Has No Mandate for Annexation

U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu take part in an announcement of Trump's Middle East peace plan at the White House in Washington, January 28, 2020.
AFP

When U.S. President Donald Trump presented his plan for resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, he said that it “resolves the risk of Palestinian statehood to Israel’s security” and that it “presents a ‘win-win’ opportunity for both sides.” Benjamin Netanyahu clearly implied that he intends to collect Israel’s winnings first of all. In a briefing with reporters in Washington Tuesday, the prime minister announced that on Sunday he would submit to the cabinet a resolution to apply Israeli law in the settlements and in the Jordan Valley.

On Wednesday, however, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin made it clear that the cabinet will not discuss the proposal in its next weekly meeting. He said the delay was technical in nature, explaining that bringing the proposal to a vote “requires time to prepare and work on the various documents.” Levin stressed that Netanyahu planned to submit the resolution “quickly, within days,” and noted the need to obtain the position of Attorney General Avichai Mendelbit. 

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In fact, the problem with imposing sovereignty at this stage is material and not merely technical. Mendelblit himself said Tuesday that while he did not reject outright the annexation of territory by a transitional government, he had not yet been asked to examine the possibility. “Even an interim government has things it can do, urgent things,” he said, adding that he would wait to see the request. The attorney general said there was a need “to explain the urgency and why it must be done before the election, and we’ll see what we can do.”

We must hope that when he does examine the issue thoroughly, Mendelblit will reach the appropriate conclusion: that the current, temporary government, on the eve of the third election within a year and led by a prime minister who has been charged in three corruption cases, does not have a mandate to make a decision of such enormous importance to the state. That is especially the case when the guiding criterion is urgency. Were it urgent to the Netanyahu government to solve the conflict on one hand, or to inflame it by means of unilateral annexation on the other hand, he had 10 years of uninterrupted rule to do so. It cannot be the case that now, two months before an election and on the day he was formally indicted, Netanyahu suddenly finds it necessary to end the stalemate vis-a-vis the Palestinians. The juncture of circumstances is too great; Mendelblit, as well as any Knesset member with a shred of decency, must not do anything to facilitate such an underhanded move.

A deal between two parties, only one of which attends its presentation, is not a deal and it has no validity. Even those who don’t dismiss it because of this must admit that the plan is nothing more than a humiliating letter of surrender for the Palestinians.

What Trump presented in Washington and Netanyahu eagerly embraced is not a peace plan, but rather a plan for unilateral annexation. But even those who believe there is any chance the Palestinians would be willing to view it as a basis for negotiations must recognize that in any event this would take time, as well as an Israeli government with a life span of more than two months and a full-time prime minister who isn’t busy proving his innocence in court. Any discussion of Trump’s so-called "Deal of the Century" can wait until after the election. Until then, Israel would do well to make do with freezing construction in the settlements.

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