Israel’s annexation of the West Bank, a process that was expected to begin on July 1st, has been delayed. Under the coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former military chief of staff Benny Gantz, Mr. Netanyahu was allowed to start annexation as long as the move had the support of the Trump administration. While the United States technically already consented to annexation in Mr. Trump’s Peace Plan for the Middle East, the White House has so far withheld a public endorsement. According to the New York Times, because of the upcoming re-election, the United States is urging Mr. Netanyahu to gain the support of Mr. Gantz in the annexation to avoid any possible criticisms by the latter that President Trump is placing Israeli lives in danger. Mr. Gantz has been publicly opposed to annexation. Any agreement from him will likely alienate his public support, already weakened by his alliance with Mr. Netanyahu.
The plan to annex parts of the West Bank is internationally condemned, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights calling it “illegal. Period.” Mr. Gantz has not given his support, stating on June 29th, “Anything unrelated to the battle against the coronavirus will wait.” However, according to Foreign Policy, Mr. Netanyahu expressed that Mr. Gantz’s Blue and White party is “not a factor either way” in the decision to annex the West Bank. Due to the delay, supporters of annexation have been criticizing Mr. Netanyahu and claiming that he is not serious about annexation but using it as a strategy to win an election. The New York Times reports that former defense minister, Mr. Lieberman, said, “What turns out is that this whole move is not a move to apply sovereignty, but a public-relations move. Simply electoral theft.”
If Israel’s annexation of the West Bank moves forward, the prospects for a peaceful, two-state solution will likely die. This is despite the statement by the Israeli Minister of Labour and Welfare, reported in the Wall Street Journal, that “at the end of the day, it won’t contradict the general goal – arriving at two states.” The Gulf states have warned Israel that such a unilateral move would jeopardize the warming relations between themselves and Israel. However, writers for Foreign Policy argue that “security, technology, and medical cooperation will take precedence over the Palestinian cause.” Regardless, the annexation will fuel unrest at least among the Palestinians which will incite violence. This aspect of President Trump’s ‘Peace Plan’ should not be imposed upon two parties without both of their consent, and it is clear that for the Palestinians, peace will not be the result.
Peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved without peace between Israel and Palestine. This has been a goal of many U.S. presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who have supported a two-state solution with Israel’s pre-1967 borders, according to the Wall Street Journal. While none have had success negotiating an agreement, President Trump believes that his plan for peace is the new approach that is needed to finally stabilize the region. The Peace to Prosperity plan unveiled by President Trump departs from this trend and disproportionately favours the Israeli side. The plan, which allows Israel to annex up to 30% of the West Bank, a territory the Palestinians consider to be part of their future state, has been rejected by the Palestinians.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “The precise consequences of annexation cannot be predicted, but they are likely to be disastrous for the Palestinians, for Israel itself, and for the wider region.” The annexation of the West Bank will not bring peace and security to the Middle East and will likely increase hostility towards Israel. Thus, we can be optimistic that this delay in annexation drags on until there is a new administration in the White House that no longer supports this action.
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