The unilateral Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank will clash with the consensus of the international community on the two states solution, and will lead to collective voting against it in international forums including the UN Security Council. Russia with its excellent relations with Israel and its Arab neighbors is perfectly positioned to play a central role in dissuading Israel from shooting its own foot.
In recent months, the extreme right-wing elements in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition government are utilizing his political weakness to suggest a number of laws that will expand Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank by applying the Israeli law in these areas. The concrete law that was submitted to the ministers’ committee for legislation is applying Israeli law on all the Israeli settlements in the West bank. These settlements are scattered all over the West Bank and if it will be approved by the Knesset (Israeli parliament), it will create an impossible reality of a patchwork of areas that are annexed to Israel, areas that are still under military occupation and are either controlled by the Palestinian Authority, or under direct Israeli military rule with no contiguity. It will be a nightmare for those that have responsibility for governing these areas and a bonanza for lawyers that will deal with this mess.
Moreover, such an step will have severe repercussions on Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians, as well as on the promising but fragile developing relations with the Sunni Arab world, and the relations with the international community. It will deepen the Palestinian mistrust in the Israeli government and make engagement in dialogue and negotiations between the two sides utterly impossible. The Palestinian leadership will continue to pursue a two-pronged policy composed, on one hand, of working with the international community to broaden the recognition of the Palestinian state and put pressure on international forums to make Israel pay for this step, and, on the other hand, of increase in the Palestinian popular revolt against the Israeli occupation through massive acts of civil disobedience. The Israeli step will also increase the popular pressure on the Palestinian Authority and its leadership and accelerate their de-legitimization, leading to their further weakening and possible collapse. That could result in a wave of violence in the Palestinian areas.
Those actors in the Sunni Arab world that are interested in better relations and cooperation with Israel as part of the mobilization of a coalition against Iran and its allies will find it increasingly difficult to cooperate with Israel. The Trump administration’s crystallizing peace plan that is based on encouragement of an “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians by improving relations between Israel and major Arab states will totally collapse under the pressure of the “Arab Street”.
The unilateral Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank will clash with the consensus of the international community on the two states solution, and will lead to collective voting against it in international forums including the UN Security Council. Even the US will find it difficult to veto such resolutions. As a matter of fact, there was already a clash between Netanyahu and the Trump administration around this issue when at a meeting of his party he explained his request not to discuss this proposed law in the ministers’ committee by saying that he started discussion of these annexation ideas with the US administration and he does not want to submit this law to the Knesset before reaching understanding with the US. This assertion was interpreted widely as reflecting willingness of the US administration to examine annexation ideas. The US administration reacted harshly by stating that it is a lie. The US is not willing to examine such ideas. Netanyahu was forced to apologize and say that it was only reporting the existence of such ideas to the administration.
Jerusalem Issue and the American Policy
The policies the Trump administration is pursuing for the Arab allies at least are becoming increasingly uncomfortable when it comes to the Palestine issue and especially with this latest move on so sensitive and iconic an issue as Jerusalem.The Trump move on Jerusalem to the peace process is equivalent to the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord on environmental issues. If regional actors grow to understand how unreliable America has become and if they are encouraged to resolve their own problems amongst themselves it could be a good thing, writes Valdai Club expert Daniel Levy, President of the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP).
All that means that further attempts to submit this kind of laws will be blocked by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his collaborators, but the whole plot was a demonstration of Mr. Netanyahu’s political weakness. He is under siege because of criminal investigations that are coming closer to filing an indictment against him. That makes him completely dependent on the political support of the extreme right wing, perceived by him to be his most loyal political base. These extreme right-wing politicians will come back with similar ideas also believing that President Trump is the new Messiah and will eventually go along with these ideas. As recent experience suggests, only the international community can help Mr. Netanyahu stop this foolishness. Russia with its excellent relations with Israel and its Arab neighbors is perfectly positioned to play a central role in dissuading Israel from shooting its own foot.