Israel Plans to Annex

Nothing is more critical for The State of Israel than peace and security. This week Israel plans on implementing some sort of annexation over the Jordan Valley. The move may be one of the most polarizing moves in the long history of the Israeli-Arab Conflict.

The Geneva Convention IV article 47 and the Charter of the United Nations have deemed annexation as a serious violation of international law. Countries that have annexed territory in the past such as Indonesia annexing East Timor in 1975, Iraq briefly annexing Kuwait in 1990, and Russia who annexed Crimea in 2014 were all condemned by the United Nations. This very month, China has annexed 60 square kilometers of Indian Territory with little opposition or concern from the International Community.

Peace talks between Israel and the Arabs have been taking place for decades. The first attempt came in 1947 when the United Nations passed the UN Partition Plan – Resolution 181. This divided the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Israel accepted the small sliver of land it was given. The Arab leadership in the British Mandate and all the neighboring Arab countries rejected any territory to be given to Israel. This led to the entire region joining forces to wage war against Israel. Israel survived and was victorious.

A second attempt to destroy Israel occurred in 1967, resulting in Israel tripling its size as a result of its defense in what became known as the Six-Day War. Immediately after, Israel gave up control of the Temple Mount, the holiest place for the Jewish people which also contains both the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock to Jordan custodianship. A couple decades later, Israel returned the Sinai Desert to Egypt. Both these countries at one point signed a resolution that promised, “no peace, no recognition and no negotiation” with Israel. This resolution stands, and there are countries that do not recognize Israel’s existence today. Despite this, Israel was still able to sign peace treaties with both Egypt and Jordan.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was very outspoken regarding future peace attempts. In 1970 she offered peace negotiations on British Prime Time TV and to the Knesset. “Our region is now at a crossroads: let us sit down together, not as victors and conquered, but as equals; let us negotiate, let us determine secure and agreed boundaries, let us write a new page of peace, good neighbourliness and cooperation for the Profit of all the nations of the Middle East.” It was Menachem Begin, first PM from the Likud party, who succeeded in signing Israel’s first peace treaty, and with giant Egypt as well.

Since then, peace with the Arab Palestinians within the Land of Israel has been attempted, mainly through a ‘two-state solution,’ but with little result. In 2000, Israel offered exactly this for the Arab Palestinians with sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, most of Judea & Samaria and East Jerusalem, as well as blocking settlement construction and handing over parts of the Haifa District and the Negev desert. Israel even proposed to give guardianship over religious sites in the Old City to the respective religions and was willing to contribute to a fund for Arab Palestinian refugees. The Arab Palestinians turned down the offer and retaliated with an Intifada or Uprising in English – violence and bloodshed in the name of ideology.

In 2007, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered up to 93.7% withdrawal from Judea & Samaria plus 5.8% of its territory in a land swap, international supervision of Jerusalem’s Holy sites and a return of a few thousand Arab Palestinian refugees. Olmert said this was the most generous offer ever made to the Palestinians, but the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas again turned it down with no Arab Palestinian state.

The most recent peace attempt came earlier this year when US President Donald Trump proposed his Peace Plan – the Deal of the Century. “The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Agreement will end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and end all claims between the parties. The foregoing will be proposed in a new UN Security Council resolution, and a new UN General Assembly resolution.” This plan was quickly rejected by Abbas and the Arab Palestinian leadership, based on the demand to recognize the Jewish State and to give up some demands such as multi-generational right of ‘refugee’ return and a Jewish capital in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian leader has faced much controversy when it comes to past peace negotiations. Abbas, who has been in power since 2005 despite only being elected to a four year term has made it clear there will be no peace unless territory goes back to “historic Palestinian borders.” He has not, however, provided any written map documenting this offer, but in any case this is unacceptable to Israel.

The people who have been left behind by this ordeal and will continue to lose out are the Arab Palestinians themselves. Trump’s plan includes over 50 billion dollars to help them obtain official statehood. “We estimate that the Palestinian GDP, which has been stagnant, could double in 10 years, create over 1 million new jobs, reduce the unemployment rate below 10 percent, and reduce the poverty rate by 50 percent. This plan is ready to be implemented in the event that peace can be made on terms consistent with this Vision.”

Abbas’s lack of urgency to come to the negotiation table may be the result of his corruption. Former head of the PA’s political department, Yasser Jadalah is on the record saying that foreign aid from Arab and European Union countries disappear into secret bank accounts belonging to Abbas’s family. While Abbas’s net worth is estimated at over 100 million dollars, almost 20% of his citizens live in poverty and would benefit greatly from a peace deal, which would offer them jobs and prosperity. Despite this, Abbas pays terrorists, many of whom are convicted murderers, before helping his own citizens. Knowing this, Israel is still willing to sit down with him.

Under the Trump Administration, the United States has changed long established positions on some territories it used to consider as occupied, calling ‘settlements’ legal; and recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2018 when it moved its embassy to the city. As stated in the peace proposal, “The State of Israel and the United States do not believe the State of Israel is legally bound to provide the Palestinians with 100 percent of pre-1967 territory.” This is consistent with United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which states, “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

Not everyone has been willing to acknowledge Israel’s sovereignty and recognized boundaries. Rather than pushing for peace negotiations, terrorist groups such as the Palestinian Liberation Organization, based on a desire to seek the destruction of Israel, were formed as early as 1964, well before any 1967 ceasefire lines were drawn. The conflict is older than the added territories of the Six Day War. More recently, in 2005 BDS was founded which aims to financially pressure companies that operate on the 140 settlements where over 600,000 settlers live. Their co-founder has been quoted saying, “Definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell out Palestinian, would ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Israel claims that control over the Jordan Valley, which according to the Oslo Accords is currently under Israeli control, but not recognized as part of the State of Israel, is critical for national security. The Jordan Valley is Israel’s longest border, strategically bordering Jordan. There is a concern that under Palestinian control, they will be able to smuggle in weapons used to attack and harm Israeli citizens as we have seen before. Trump’s plan addresses Israel’s national security, “No government should be asked to compromise the safety and security of its citizens. This is especially true for the State of Israel, a country that since its establishment has faced, and continues to face, enemies that call for its annihilation. Israel has also had the bitter experience of withdrawing from territories that were then used to launch attacks against it.” This refers to the withdrawal of the Gaza Strip in 2005, which allowed the terrorist group Hamas to take over.

International backlash is certain and will deem any territory annexed as illegal but this is not something Israel is a stranger to. There are over 150 territorial disputes in the world today but the Israeli-Arab and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflicts are the most notorious and well exposed. Former US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley said the UN has condemned Israel at least 500 times over the years, with Israel the most condemned country in the world – period.

Some fear that an extension of Israeli sovereignty will lead to another intifada, violence or even war. Confidence in future peace plans regarding a two state solution and Israel’s democratic status have also been put into question. Over 1000 European parliamentarians, representing 25 countries and world leaders such as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have spoken out against annexation. 220 Former IDF officers including former Mossad commanders also opposed annexation. Even AIPAC has given a green light to lawmakers to criticize the annexation plan. The UN Human Rights Council have compared annexation to a 21st Century apartheid. They warned Israel that unlike previous annexations, this time there may be countermeasures.

There is still uncertainty, with possibly only days left, regarding what will actually take place. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may take advantage of the International distraction from COVID-19, the region’s growing concern over Iran and his close relationship with Donald Trump to annex part of the Jordan Valley. Trump, who Netanyahu has referred to as the “greatest friend that Israel has ever had in the White House” has given him confidence that with American support, now is the right time to act. There is doubt though that he will actually go through with extending unilateral sovereignty. Speculation ranges from only settlements being annexed, or perhaps that this conversation was just a campaign promise to gain support, perhaps a distraction from his upcoming corruption trial and so on. Polls show Israelis are slightly in favor of some sort of sovereignty, but uncertainty with the so-called July 1st deadline has led to question whether it can happen. Certainly, having US envoys in the area this week, expressing the need for caution, has highlighted the idea that action may not be immediate.

Both Israel and the Palestinians are bracing for conflict. Israel may expect something similar to 2018 when there was a spike in rockets, balloons, and other means of terror from the Gaza Strip. Abbas too has been ordering for thousands of PA files to be hidden in the event of a possible invasion from the Israeli Defense Forces if the Arab Palestinians react to annexation with violence.

Extending Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan Valley could shake up future peace attempts. Some Arab leaders have expressed their dismay, while others remain silent. It may make the Arab Palestinians fear more annexations will follow which under the Trump plan, about 30% of Judea and Samaria is subject to annexation. Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, there have been nearly 700 United Nations General Assembly resolutions and over 100 United Nations Security Council statements regarding this ongoing conflict. The Israeli-Arab & Palestinian Conflicts have been going on for over 70 years and patience may be running out on the Palestinian side. Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently said, “We won’t continue to wait for the Palestinians. If they say no forever to everything, then we’ll be forced to move forward without them.” With so much controversy over this upcoming move, only time will tell if an extension of sovereignty and annexation have moved Israel and the Palestinians closer to peace or further apart.

The above was co-authored by Jake Nemeth.