GP Insights

GP Insights # 377, 27 June 2020

Palestine protests against Israel's West Bank annexation plans
Lakshmi V Menon

What happened?
On 22 June, Palestine staged a Fatah-backed protest, in the presence of international diplomats, against the planned annexation in Jordan Valley's Jericho. It is expected that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on 1 July, will proclaim the annexation of the northern Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley (illegally occupied West Bank territories) in congruence with the Netanyahu-Gantz coalition government agreement and the Trump-Jared Mideast plan. Netanyahu has called the potential annexation another 'glorious chapter in the history of Zionism.' Meanwhile, Palestinians have called for global intervention to thwart the land-grab which they believe would cause a 'bottom-up approach' to their issue and transform the conflict into a 'revolution' while strengthening Jewish settlement expansion policies.

What is the background?
First, Netanyahu's publicized announcement. On 28 May, Netanyahu publicized his commitment to annex the West Bank after the completion of a conceptual map by an Israeli-US team. Israel's alternate PM, Benny Gantz is also less likely to back sweep the unilateral annexation plans. 

Second, annexation is illegal under the UN Charter. Annexation is when "a state unilaterally incorporates another territory within its borders". The UN forbids territorial conquest and annexation, and the UN's Middle East envoy has warned Israel that it "would dramatically shift local dynamics and most likely trigger conflict and instability in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip". However, any UNSC move to condemn Israel would be vetoed by the US.

Third, international criticisms for the annexation. Israel's friends and foes have warned against going forward with the annexation. Israel's largest trading partner EU 'discouraged' Israel from annexing. Russia has called the plan' very dangerous' and the Arab states, in particular, Jordan sharply criticized the plan. And most of the Gulf countries have but verbally accused the country.

What does it mean?
First, annexation will redraw the eastern frontiers of Israel and push the asymmetric conflict into novel territory. As per reports, the earmarked areas would encompass 30 per cent of the West Bank. Although over 4.5 per cent Palestinians living in West Bank would come under the annexed territory, Israeli sovereignty will not apply to Palestinians. The latter would only be subject to Palestinian laws and Israeli military orders.

Second, a significant change in settlement construction. Presently, construction in the West Bank needs approvals from Israeli PM and defence minister. Annexation would make building a local, easier and faster process.

Third, the reversal of the annexation plan would be highly unlikely. Post annexation, only the support of a huge majority of members of the Israeli Parliament can repeal the permanent status of the annexed regions as parts of the state of Israel (at least from Israel's view). 

Fourth, the spiralling nexus. Core issues of Israeli occupation, illegal settlement construction, securitization, access restrictions, displacement, deprivation of basic civil rights of Palestinians, restrictions on Palestinian construction, animosities, violence and the disjointed Israeli-Palestinian map resembling "Swiss cheese" will worsen.

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