The Knesset Wants Apartheid

The current Knesset is carrying out a creeping annexation of the occupied territories, applying more and more laws to the West Bank while erasing the Green Line

This file photo from 2017 shows a view of the Jabal al-Baba Bedouin encampment, near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank, with the settlement appearing in the background.

The current Knesset is persistently carrying out a creeping legal annexation of the occupied territories, applying more and more Knesset laws to the West Bank while erasing the Green Line. This week the Interior Committee advanced to the Knesset an amendment that would enable the interior minister to order the transfer of industrial property taxes from wealthy local governments to adjacent ones – even if the latter are settlements beyond the Green Line.

Anyone who imagines that this is a social equalizer, or a move made in the name of distributive justice, in which the wealthy help the poor – had better sober up. The funds’ movement is one-way: the bill does not enable transferring money from West Bank settlements to poor communities within Israel (except under future military orders, which Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked recently said are delayed for years, sometimes even for a decade).

This government is acting for the settlers’ interests on two levels: It is advancing bills intended to blur the distinction between the sovereign state of Israel and the settlements. At the same time, it continues to conduct clear financial discrimination in favor of the settlements, which receive much more generous government funding and have the status of a national priority region.

The legal annexation, however, may yield the opposite results of those envisaged by the coalition chiefs. Equalizing the legal status of settlers and the citizens of sovereign Israel may ultimately lead to a judicial decision that would revoke, in the name of the principle of equality, all discrimination in favor of the settlers, both in state budgets and law enforcement.

The equality between citizens on both sides of the Green Line would also by a pyrrhic legal triumph, because it will no longer be possible to launder Israeli reality. Without the Green Line, which symbolizes a future border between two states, there will be one state in which Israeli citizens live in inequality alongside Palestinian subjects deprived of citizenship and civil rights. Each group will be subordinate, according to its status, to a separate legal system and standards. This phenomenon has a name, and Israel will no longer be able to renounce reality and deny to the international community that it is an apartheid state, with all that this implies.

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