29 April 2020   Leave a comment

The stalemate in Israeli politics seems to have been broken by an agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to form an emergency unity government. Under the agreement, Netanyahu will remain as Prime Minister for 18 months after which Gantz will serve as Prime Minister for another 18 months. There are obviously terms of the agreement about which we remain ignorant, but there was one part of the agreement which was made public. NBC News points out:

“In a deal to form an emergency unity government last week, Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz agreed that Netanyahu will be able to bring forward legislation to annex parts of the West Bank for approval by the government and the Israeli Parliament by July 1.

“Washington would need to agree to the move, according to the power-sharing agreement, under which Netanyahu will serve as prime minister for 18 months before handing power over to Gantz.”

It is highly likely that the Trump Administration will approve the annexation since it has previously recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel despite Palestinian hopes for East Jerusalem as its capital in its own state. Additionally, the Trump Administration has also recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a region Israel took from Syria in the war of 1967. The US State Department made the following statement on Monday:

“‘As we have made consistently clear, we are prepared to recognise Israeli actions to extend Israeli sovereignty and the application of Israeli law to areas of the West Bank that the vision foresees as being part of the State of Israel,’ a US State Department spokesperson said on Monday.

“‘The step would be “in the context of the Government of Israel agreeing to negotiate with the Palestinians along the lines set forth in President Trump’s Vision,’ she said.

“The statement came after Netanyahu said on Monday he was confident the US would give Israel the approval within two months to move ahead with the de facto annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank.”

The plan effectively ends the “two-state” solution which has been the preferred option for most of the countries of the world (including the US, until the Trump Administration, although the current US Administration insists that it is still an option). The annexation of the West Bank would give Israel almost total control over the water resources of the region and it is hard to imagine a viable Palestinian state that would certainly be non-contiguous. Most Arab states, including important US allies such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, have indicated that they oppose the unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank.

If the annexation does occur, then Israel will have to decide what place Palestinians will have in the future. There were 5.79 million Palestinians in 2017: 2.16 million in the West Bank, 1.84 million in Israel, and 1.79 million in the Gaza Strip. There are 6,697,000 Jews in Israel, out of a total population of 9,152,100 in 2020. If the Israelis cannot agree on a Palestinian state that is capable of sustaining itself (which essentially means access to water, agricultural land, and the resources necessary for a viable economy), then it is impossible for me to imagine a stable future for either the Palestinians or the Israelis. The only other alternative is for the Israelis to accept the Palestinians as full-fledged citizens of the Israeli state.

It is a terrible shame that such a dramatic change has occurred when the attention of the world was focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. At some point in the future, the world will be reminded of the price of its inattention.

Posted April 29, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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