Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation deadline of July 1st came and went, having not received the green light from the U.S. administration. In January, President Trump announced a ‘deal of the century’, a Middle East peace plan that Palestinians deem to be constructed on Netanyahu’s desk. The deal aimed to be launched by July 1st, 2020 but has not officially come into force, yet.
The plan allows for Israel to annex (acquiring territory by force and a flagrant violation of modern international law) Jewish settlements constituting up to 33% of occupied lands in the Palestinian West Bank and Jordan Valley region. Annexation of territories such as the Jordan Valley would give the Israeli military an important strategic vantage point, with full view and control over the area along with complete access to the Jordan River. This would allow the Israeli state to surround the West Bank, cutting off the Palestinians access to water.
Palestinians within the annexed zone would experience even more difficulty accessing essential services like healthcare and education, with humanitarian access also hindered. Palestinians outside the annexed zone will see access to natural resources cut off, and the ability to leave and return to their own country severely restricted.
Territories such as the Jordan Valley are a huge resource, with very fertile lands and where most agriculture is located. According to ground sources such as Al-Jazeera and international bodies such as the United Nations, Palestinian farmers barely get enough water as it is. It is reported that the Israelis, who have been illegally settling in the territory since 1967, receive 20 times more water. The annexation would shatter an already devastated people, who have been seeking freedom, justice, and equality for decades.
The Israeli prime minister has invoked religion to claim the territory as “the biblical Land of Israel” and insists that the goal of annexing all the settlements, as well as the strategic Jordan Valley, is aimed at security. However, the deal will not fully satisfy the ardent Israelis, particularly the hundreds of thousands of settlers as annexation fails to give them a purely Jewish state, and requires living in perpetual fear of retaliation. The Palestinians would still be there, within a very close distance, and have warned of resistance and violence for what they deem another major injustice.
According to international governing bodies such as the United Nations and European Union as well as humanitarian non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, international law is crystal clear on this matter, “annexation is unlawful. Israel’s continued pursuit of this policy further illustrates its cynical disregard for international law.” The proposed annexation is a major violation of international law and is in serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, and the rights of the Palestinian people. The move unilaterally nullifies the prospects for genuine negotiations for a two-state solution based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and the pre-1967 borders.
Leaders from around the world including key Arab nations have all condemned the act. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Netanyahu ally, said “The UK will not recognize any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed by both parties.” The EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell stressed annexation would severely undermine Israel-EU ties. China and Russia are also amongst the many nations against annexation plans, with the Russian Foreign Ministry stating the deal may further destabilize the already volatile situation in the Middle East.
The mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic by both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu has led to a delay in official annexation procedures. Some analysts attribute this and decreasing political support to the ‘deal of the century’ not going ahead. However, the deal is likely only suspended, to use for a better opportunity.
President Trump will be focusing on his re-election later this year and will seek to implement the annexation plan at a time that coincides with the U.S. election. This would attract significant support from the Zionist evangelical right-wing in America and would allow for a major distraction from his and his Israeli counterparts’ failure in tackling coronavirus.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has reiterated, “If implemented, annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law… I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans.” The international community must consistently observe the illegal settlements in the West Bank that have accelerated during the pandemic and ensure any sort of annexation procedure is opposed and stopped.
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