Sat, 31 Oct 2020

Will Israel Annex the Jordan Valley

Pressenza
23 Sep 2020, 10:27 GMT+10

The Israeli government of Benyamin Netanyahu plans to annex the Jordan Valley. Why is this decision being made right now? What interest does it represent for Israel? What threats does this pose to the Palestinians? What consequences would this have for peace in the region?.

Pressenza examines the above questions with Raphaël Porteilla, politician and lecturer at the University

of Burgundy; Hisham Abu Shahla, PhD student in Political Science at the University of Burgundy and

Abaher Al Skaha, Professor of Sociology at the University of Birzeit.

Is this annexation possible?

The annexation of occupied territories is a serious violation of the Charter of the United Nations and theGeneva Conventions of 1949. Such an annexation contradicts the fundamental rule, repeatedly affirmed by the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations, that the acquisition of territory by war or Violence is prohibited by law.

Such a unilateral decision is contrary to international law on the part of a state that ritually prides itself on being "the only democracy in the region". The annexation of the West Bank would systematize a reality that has been visible for several years: two peoples living in the same area, ruled by the same state, but with extremely unequal rights. It is the expression of apartheid in an Israeli version. Since the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians are currently living on divided territory similar to the Bantustans in South Africa during the apartheid period. Since 1967 Israel has controlled the entire historical Palestine and the Trump Plan, as well as its development by B. Netanyahu makes the situation official. The Oslo Accords

gave Israel full control of 62% of the West Bank. This "interim" agreement within the "peace process" enabled Israel to continue colonizing Palestine and to cover up its apartheid policy by granting the Palestinian Authority (limited) autonomy. If this annexation were implemented, there would be no radical changes on the ground, as Israel already dominates the 30% of the West Bank, which would fall under its de facto sovereignty.There is a risk that the prospect of annexation may encourage Israeli settlers to act more aggressively against the Palestinians - which is already happening on the ground. Evictions and house demolitions have already begun, and roadblocks have been put in place to restrict Palestinians from

accessing their land. The entire Palestinian economy will be affected.

It must be noted that this annexation plan has led to a flood of more or less sharp disapproval, both in Israel and around the world. There were several demonstrations against the annexation in Israel in June 2020. Famous voices such as Avraham Burg and others have spoken out against this policy because they believe that Israel cannot be an exception in the world and to send a sign that not all Jews share this vision. There were also several peaceful rallies and demonstrations on the Palestinian side in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite the Palestinian authorities expressing hostility to the project. In addition, several countries have clearly expressed their rejection of any annexation - at the top Russia and China, but also some EU states in a rather tentative way, such as France, Great Britain and Germany. However,

other states like Hungary or Austria maintain their support for Israel. The UN has also spoken out (far too cautiously) about the illegal and immoral character of this impending annexation, although Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, "confirms the illegality of any annexation, whether it is 30% or 5%. of the West Bank ", denounced. Finally, the public in several states called for rallies aimed at stopping this political drift and called on their respective governments to use international law to put an end to the impunity of Israel, which does not abide by international law and to emphasize the manifold consequences that this annexation would entail.

What would be the local, regional and international consequences?

Should this project be carried out, the annexed settlements would become part of the Israeli state, which would expand its area accordingly. The land appropriated in this way becomes part of Israeli territory, which in reality is already the case with the bypasses that connect these settlements with each other and with Israel. This would increase the spatial and territorial basis of Israel at the expense of Palestine, which would then be reduced to almost 15% of its mandate and which would ultimately destroy a potential two- state solution (if this is not already the case). The annexation would deny the Palestinians access to the waters of the Jordan, a fertile and rich plain, and further isolate the West Bank. The Palestinians living in the valley would have the choice of either going voluntarily or being forced to leave because they would

be exposed to displacement as foreigners (the ethnic cleansing that many historians denounced in 1948 would find its extension here).

At the regional level, the disturbing, but hardly surprising, silence of some Arab countries suggests that the fate of the Palestinians is no longer of concern. Jordan strongly condemned this decision, as it was due to geographical, political (1994 peace agreement with Israel, in which the question of borders depends in part on the Palestinian Authority, which was appointed by Jordan as an interlocutor) and demographic reasons (many Palestinians would probably voluntarily or involuntarily cross the Jordan to Jordan) is most affected. The United Arab Emirates also have a solid position. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper, your ambassador in Washington warned that annexing the rapprochement between the Arab countries and Israel could harm.

This is a crucial question for the European Union. The 27 countries disagree on Israel. However, there is a

precedent for illegal annexation on which the EU has shown remarkable unity over the past six years: Crimea; Russia has introduced sanctions that are renewed unanimously every six months. The German MEPs thought sanctions against Israel were counterproductive - meanwhile, there is a debate about how the European reaction will be. However, this response must be strong, clear and concrete so that the weight of European diplomacy does not lose all credibility.

Although the general opposition was rather scattered and timid, B. Netanyahu agreed to postpone his project, which is supported by the US, temporarily.The only question is how long. Will it be the American election calendar that will set the pace for the annexation?

What is the current state of Palestinian and Israeli public opinion on this issue?.

The Palestinians are united in their opposition to this annexation, even if they are skeptical of the intentions of their political leaders. The Palestinian people are at a crossroads after years of resistance by various means, alternately peacefully and in armed struggle, in direct negotiations and international talks.

A commitment to fundamental rights is still there, but it is difficult to see where this can lead. Historically, the Palestinian people have always been able to take the initiative in the most difficult moments, they have not lost that confidence. And while no doubt some are exhausted or even resigned, others (the youngest) are still collectively in tune with Mr. Darwish when he wrote, "The Palestinian people suffer from an incurable evil, hope."

The Palestinians are united in their opposition to this annexation, even if they are skeptical of the intentions of their political leaders. The Palestinian people are at a crossroads after years of resistance by various means, alternately peacefully and in armed struggle, in direct negotiations and international talks.

A commitment to fundamental rights is still there, but it is difficult to see where this can lead. Historically, the Palestinian people have always been able to take the initiative in the most difficult moments, they have not lost that confidence. And while no doubt some are exhausted or even resigned, others (the youngest) are still collectively in tune with Mr. Darwish when he wrote, "The Palestinian people suffer from an incurable evil, hope."

For most Israelis, this topic seems largely uninteresting as it hardly interferes with their daily lives.

Others, however, believe that B. Netanyahu is trying to use the annexation issue as a means of distancing himself from the debate over the corruption cases he has been accused of. Still others support the annexation plan, although some settlement leaders oppose 30% annexation because they view the entire occupied West Bank as part of Israel and are concerned about the possibility of creating a Palestinian state in the rest of the territory. Israel's staunch opponents of this annexation policy can hardly be heard in public, apart from certain journalists, personalities with moral authority such as A. Burg, the former president of the Jewish Wold Agency or pacifist social movements.

Is there a possibility of convergence of views and actions between Palestinian and Israeli activists who oppose the annexation?.

The answer depends on who answers it. For some of our contacts, the answer is clearly no. The two activist sectors have little or no point of contact. For others, the demonstrations that have taken place in Israel have brought together Jewish and Arab Israelis and sparked debates about the implications of the annexation. Movements like "Peace Now" are considered extreme left movements and are neither very popular nor numerous. The "Women Wage Peace" movement, on the other hand, which brought together Jewish and Arab women from both sides, is somewhat more popular because it is neither left nor right and is perceived as particularly inclusive.

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