ISRAEL’S PROPOSED ANNEXATION OF OCCUPIED WEST BANK: THIRD INTIFADA IN PALESTINE?
The Zionist occupation forces are looking for yet another opportunity of expansion into Palestinian lands with unprecedented support from its main imperialist ally, the US
By Abdul Rahman
On May 30, 2020 Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his government’s plan to annex 30% of the West Bank on July 1. On June 1, Benny Gantz, Israel’s new defense minister and future prime minister, asked the military to be prepared for the planned annexation. The defense forces’ chief of staff in Israel has also expressed apprehensions about possible reactions by Palestinians. Already in the last couple of months, the number of illegal detentions of Palestinians has seen an unprecedented rise.
As per the stated annexation plan, Israeli sovereignty will be formally extended to all illegal settlements, as well as the fertile Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. Though approved by the new coalition government in Israel, which came to power last month, the annexation was first promised by Netanyahu during the campaigns for the second parliamentary elections last year in September.
The move has been approved by the US administration of Donald Trump and might become a reality despite some voices of opposition from quarters of the international community. US support has been crucial for the expansion of Israeli occupation and settlements.
Though the details of the plan have not yet been made available in the public domain, the proposed annexation will mostly be in area C of the occupied West Bank, where most of the illegal Israeli settlements have been built since the Israeli occupation in 1967. The plan for the annexation of the Jordan valley was made public by Netanyahu last September. The valley, which borders the state of Jordan, is rich and fertile with a permanent source of water through the river Jordan.
The area proposed to be annexed as per the plan will reportedly be equivalent to 50% of Area C. This corresponds with the proposals made under the so-called “Deal of Century” announced by Trump in January this year. Area C is under full Israeli administrative and security control and constitutes almost 60% of the entire West Bank.
As per the Trump plan, the remaining 50% of Area C will also not be available for any construction, ultimately suggesting that Palestinians will have to let go of 60% of the West Bank.
The fate of more than 65,000 Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley and that of their farmlands is still more unclear. If not expelled, in all likelihood, they will be treated as second-class Israeli citizens.
Many argue that the Jordan Valley is already annexed by Israel informally, and if Netanyahu goes ahead with his announcement, it will only make this formal .
The division of the occupied territories (excluding Eastern Jerusalem) into Area A, B and C was facilitated by the Oslo accords signed between the state of Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation between 1993-95. The Palestinian Authority (PA) was created under the accords to administer area A, with heavily populated cities and towns. The municipal administration in these areas and to some extent in area B came with the promise of an independent Palestinian state in the future. All the key issues – the fate of Palestinian refugees forcefully uprooted from their homes during the creation of the state of Israel (Nakba), the dispute over Jerusalem, illegal Jewish settlements built in the occupied territories since 1967, and the final borders of both the states – were left for final status negotiations which never took place.
Meanwhile, Israel kept on increasing the number of illegal settlements inside the occupied territories and strengthening its position in area C. In complete violation of all international laws, Israel also built an apartheid wall running all across the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It created settlers-only roads and numerous check posts in the last decade-and-a half following the Oslo accords. These moves have strengthened Israel’s control over the territories.
The PA’s security coordination with the Israeli state also became an additional pillar of strength for Israel to suppress all kinds of Palestinian resistance movements.
Thus, the Oslo accords, instead of providing the ground for the creation of a future Palestinian state, has become a facilitator for Israeli annexation plans.
Israel uses the more than 600,000 illegal Jewish settlers it has planted on occupied Palestinian territories as an excuse to extend its armed control of the region. According to a 2017 study conducted by an Israeli think tank, up to 75% of all Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are deployed in the occupied West Bank alone. More than 80% of them are to “defend” the settlements. This clearly shows the priorities of the Israeli state. In the name of providing security to settlers, these forces often indulge in helping the expansion of settlement areas by forcefully removing Palestinian villages, farms or orchards from nearby lands.
Experts point that the proposed annexation of the West Bank would be illegal according to the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949. As per the convention, to which Israel is a signatory, no occupying power can transfer its own civilian population into the occupied territories. It cannot annex, nor can it build any permanent structure. Israel has often tried to justify its activities inside the occupied territories by citing the exception clause regarding building for security reasons. However, as noted in a 2004 judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in a case related to the apartheid wall, this excuse is baseless.
Palestinians living under the occupation and those forced to live in other countries as refugees will never accept the annexation. However, the Israeli state and its international collaborators are posed to try to prevent any large-scale movement. The heavy deployment of forces, rising arrests and illegal detentions, killings and assassinations, all point to the likely use of methods of suppression mastered by Israel in the last seven decades.
The role of the US in the creation and expansion of Israel is very well known. It is a fact that Israel’s crucial role as US’ second fiddle in the region helps in the US imperialist agenda. The Trump administration, since its coming to power in 2017, has shed all appearances of balance taken up by its predecessors and has been openly supportive of Zionist agenda. Trump has not only recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by shifting the US embassy from Tehran, but has also recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights and stopped funding to the PA.
The Israeli announcement of the planned annexation of the settlements and Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank is not just a move made in desperation by a prime minister facing criminal cases of corruption and misuse of power, who wants to build a legacy. It is also an inevitable step in the Zionist project which has always maintained that the entire West Bank is a part of the mythical Judea and Samaria, the promised land of Israel. The leader of the imperialist block, the US, is more than willing to oblige its junior partner in the West Asian region and there exists complete hegemony of the ultra-right-wing discourse in the domestic politics in Israel. Additionally, at a time when most Arab countries have no real motivation to stand with the Palestinians, the Zionists see an opportunity to complete the project which was started more than a century ago.
The above article is reproduced from Peoples Dispatch, 7 June 2020.
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