On Monday the 1st of June an article appeared in the Jerusalem Post that should have given shivers of concern to anyone with a desire in upholding international law. The article in question claims new Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz had instructed the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to prepare for the annexation of the Palestinian West Bank territories “at once”. The New York Times corroborated this claim and added Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi had been instructed to “accelerate preparations for the possibility that Israel will apply its laws to parts of the West Bank” after a discussion with Trump administration officials.
This comes only days after Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that as of the 1st of July Israel will start the process of annexing Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jordan Valley. The plan has widely been condemned by the international community as illegal and reckless, not only endangering the peace process and Israeli-Arab relations but the livelihoods of millions of Palestinians too. Only the the current United States administration has expressed support for the move.
Only weeks ago Benny Gantz and his Blue and White party agreed to work with incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Lukid party after failing to secure a majority in three back to back rounds of voting. It is believed Gantz himself is opposed to unilateral annexation but now finds himself politically tied to Netanyahu.
Donald Trump’s widely touted peace process calls for up to 30% of the West Bank territories to be effectively under Israeli sovereignty. The Jerusalem Post reports that due to the coalition agreement between the parties the earliest Netanyahu can begin the process would be on July 1st.
While the political attitudes in the Knesset have increasingly turned nationalistic over the last few years, this announcement can be seen as one of the most brazen calls against a peace deal in recent memory. Should the plans push ahead it is likely widespread regional and international condemnation will occur.
Security concerns are already high after Palestinian representatives resolutely rejected Trump’s peace plan. On the back of raised tensions, the IDF and Shin Bet (the Israeli domestic security service) have been instructed to hold war games focused on countering a reaction to a West Bank annexation. The plans reportedly include plans to counter insurgencies, terrorism and widespread unrest according to the New York Times.
Should Israel continue to push for annexation they risk not only violating international law and further alienating themselves, they risk the very stability of a region which has fought multiple wars over the lines delineated on the map. Aggression is not how to change those lines in a way that benefits any of the people who live within them.
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