Annexation of the West Bank: theft in broad daylight

A photo of the immeasurably high apartheid wall with the words 'FREE PALESTINE' painted on it.
Image: Montecruz Foto | Flikr.

For years, Israel has professed its commitment to a two-state solution while meticulously planning its demise and the Western world has played along. But now the cat’s out of the bag, writes Kostas Antoniadis.

Two States One Solution 

For some time now, Benjamin Netanyahu – joined recently by his newest BFF Benny Gantz – has been openly, defiantly, even proudly, announcing his intention to illegally annex parts of the West Bank, a move that would effectively hammer the final nail into the coffin of a Palestinian state. Indeed, annexation became a key election promise, a pledge designed to appeal to those for  whom a Palestinian state is simply an anathema. In case there was doubt regarding the spurious claim that Israel was ever going to accept a two-state solution, Netanyahu’s plans have unequivocally removed it. They have also placed Israel in the unique position of going into an election with both candidates making an election promise to violate international law.

For 53 years Israel has lied to the world by professing its commitment to a two-state solution while meticulously planning its demise. Taking cues from the US, the majority of the Western world has played along, professing its own commitment to the fabled two-state solution in the form of countless declarations, accords and UN resolutions. And for 53 years, these accords and resolutions have produced zero results.

In any case, the cat is now out of the bag. Israel has decided the charade is no longer worth playing, leaving the rest of the world to justify yet another indefensible Israeli violation of international law.

What’s wrong with annexation?

In simple terms, annexation, of any part of the West Bank, is land theft. Palestinians have, reluctantly, agreed to the notion of a two-state solution since 1982. This required them to recognise Israel and settle for a state comprising just 22% of historic Palestine. As difficult as this proposition was, they accepted it. Israel however, has never held up their end of the bargain. They continued to seize Palestinian land, usually under the guise of security, and to build more and more settlements on it. B’Tselem estimates there are over 650,000 people, living illegally, in Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank today.

The more laws, the less justice”

The international community has from the outset, recognised the occupation of the West Bank and the subsequent building of settlements on this occupied land, as illegal. Indeed, every US administration until Trump, has also recognised it as illegal. Despite this, the US has vetoed every binding UN resolution against Israel, preventing a single punitive measure to pass and frankly, making a mockery of international law. 

In Dec 2016, a month before leaving office, Barack Obama abstained from voting in UN Resolution 2334, which states that “Israel’s settlement activity constitutes a “flagrant violation” of international law and has “no legal validity””. It passed 14-0.Israel reacted by announcing plans to build another 3000 homes in the West Bank and the Knesset promptly passed a law legalising existing settlements.

France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK said they were “deeply concerned” about Netanyahu’s pledge to annex huge swathes of the West Bank. In a combined tweet, they said that if implemented, it would constitute a “serious breach of international law”. 

The “A” word

In addition to the outright theft of land, there is another, even more distasteful problem with annexation. Apartheid.

These Jewish only settlements were created through ethnic cleansing. Over 750,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes in 1948 and more than 500 villages were destroyed to make way for the new state of Israel. The land on which West Bank settlements sit today, was acquired in exactly the same way; the expulsion of the indigenous population, the destruction of Palestinian homes, and the confiscation of land. Annexation is the continuation of the same ethnic cleansing that created Israel. 

In his final speech to the UN on the subject, US Secretary of State John Kerry put it this way:

“There are currently about 2.75 million Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank, most of them in Areas A and B where they have limited autonomy. They are restricted in their daily movements by a web of checkpoints, and unable to travel into or out of the West Bank without a permit from the Israelis. So if there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives of them of the most basic freedoms – separate but unequal.” 

He dared not say the word, but the meaning was all too clear. Despite almost universal condemnation by the world community for 72 years, as well as condemnation from numerous human rights groups like HRW and Amnesty, Israel remains defiant, whilst the US protects Israel from prosecution or sanctions. Words, like those of Kerry and so many others before and after him, are meaningless without action. 

Deal or no deal

In the latest development, the US recently announced a so-called “landmark deal” to normalise relations with the UAE. As part of the deal, Israel promised not to annex the West Bank and to allow the UAE to purchase F-35 strike fighters. The ink had barely dried before Netanyahu said that annexation plans had not been scrapped but put on hold and, less than two weeks after signing off on it, that he is opposed to the F-35 purchases as well.

A final note

Professor William Schabas, an internationally respected expert and authority on human rights law, is leading a submission to the International Criminal Court requesting an investigation of senior US and Israel officials (including Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu, Mike Pompeo and Jared Kushner) over alleged war crimes committed as part of the “Deal of the century” which inter alia, seeks to annex portions of “the sovereign territory of the State of Palestine”. A long bow, but all great fires start with a spark.