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Israel’s plans of annexing certain parts of the West Bank step by step will be put into action from 1 July 2020. The annexation of 30% of the West Bank, consisting of Israeli settlements, by the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is only backed by a minority in the international arena, mainly Israel itself, Donald Trump and some members of his cabinet. The majority of international actors have warned Israel against executing the annexation as it is expected to create tensions in the region and could undermine the fragile peace between Israel and Palestine as well as between Israel and its new Arab countries allies.
The European Union, as an important economic partner of Israel, highly discourages the Israeli government from the annexation, which is seen as a hostile act in international law. Arab countries in the region that signed peace with Israel – such as Egypt, Jordan or the United Arab Emirates – due to the common Iranian threat and beneficial trade between their countries reminded Netanyahu and his government that this move could mean the end of such peace treaties. On 22 June thousands of Palestinians protested against the annexation plan, a protest that was supported by British, Russian, Japanese Jordanian and U.N. diplomats.
Even though there are critics of a unilateral annexation even in the Israeli government – for example Benny Gantz, the deputy of the Prime Minister – it is widely agreed that those territories belong to Israel. Yigal Dilmoni, the head of the Yesha Council, stated that he hopes for a Palestinian government that will be able to recognise the Israeli generosity of allowing Palestine to have 70% of the West Bank. Despite this alleged generosity, the power of the Palestinian Authority, which governs Palestine, would be endangered by the Israeli annexation, as Palestine would lose territories.
The West Bank, giving home to 3 million Palestinians and 430,000 Israelis, has been the centre of many conflicts in the region during the 20th century. In January, Donald Trump presented a plan giving 30% of the West Bank territory to Israel, creating Palestine from the remaining 70% and adding certain parts of Gaza. Between the two parts of the planned Palestine lies Israel, dividing the future Palestinian state into two. According to the U.S. President, these two parts would be connected by a tunnel. The Israeli government has already invested in the region by building water pipelines, sewage purification systems and a huge bridge for the travellers.
Israeli laws are already exercised on Israeli settlements, which means the acknowledgement of those settlements as part of Israel. A major issue that would emerge concerns the rights of Palestinians who would also be annexed to Israel. The Israeli government would find itself in a difficult situation because as a democratic country it is expected to give full citizenship to Palestinians, but that could lead to the outvoting of the Israeli citizens in elections. However, should the government give only limited rights to the Palestinians, the situation would resemble to an apartheid state.
The annexation of certain West Bank territories would lead to the destabilisation of the region and conflicts between Israel and Palestine. It could also prove the end of improved relations of Israel and some Arab countries. However, it is worth bearing in mind that the U.S. presidential elections are due in November, and in the case that a Democratic were elected, the situation could change as Israel would lack American support for the annexation.