Palestine Update 387
Netanyahu cries “Wolf”
Benoy Kamark, a Commonwealth scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge writes: “Land seizures, annexations, and conquest. These are words axiomatic to the state of Israel. In the main, the state has maintained an uncomfortable position based on patience and attrition. We have waited this long; you will wait longer. Be it dispossessed Palestinians and their aspirations for state recognition or what are loosely described as the objections of the “international community”, Israel has imperial staying power. Be patient, and the rage over the abuse of Palestinians will die down”.
This staying power, backed by an equally wicked and pitiless military superiority over Palestinians which all western nations must bear the guilt for. This externally infused power is the reason why Israel wins its micro and macro battles. Additionally, there is an offensive and corrupt military-industrial-complex which poorer countries in the global South invest in. The profits from this arms trade props up Israel. Arms trade interests armies and their political bosses. The kick-backs, remember, are plentiful. Added to the conventional weapons, Israel is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons which make it doubly dangerous. A crude colonialist-racist occupier which has learned from America may not even hesitate to use its weapons of mass destruction. And regardless of its innumerable and hateful crimes, Israel gets a go-by in the UNSC with the UNGA rendered impotent. Israel can commit all the crimes it wants to directly or by its eternal proxy, the USA. Settlements, attacks on sovereign countries, and all things criminal-colonial have received the ‘legitimizing wash’ of the UN Security Council. The frowns over Israel’s illegalities are conveniently tucked away in diversionary assimilations and observance of legitimacy. Israel is reprimanded, and the world plays out the game of semantics. Israel does not care; nor does the world.
Israel is in its democratic muddle. Three elections in a single year is a dubious record and show a confused electorate and lack of credible leadership in any single party. There is even talk of a fourth election and that is linked to Netanyahu’s own criminal trial and the tussle for a steady alliance. Netanyahu’s promise of annexation was a mere election stunt. It did not materialize as promised on July 1 largely because there is an annexation in place without needing to convert a de facto annexation into a de jure one. It is intended to apply to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and in the Jordan Valley from this month. Benny Gantz argued that annexation had little added value given the coronavirus crisis and the country’s economic troubles. But Netanyahu is like this. Every time he is trouble, he needs a commotion even if that is yet another calamity.
Philip H. Gordon and Robert Malley writing in Foreign Policy suggest that annexation push “won’t trigger a disaster.” The questions at stake really are what form the Palestinian protest will take. Will the Palestinian Authority survive and will the threats by Arab states to dissolve “budding ties”? Or will the warning of sanctions by European states actually play out?
For Israel the ‘annexation tax’ will be a high price. If the annexation happens, it would be noxious for Israel. Israel would have brazenly contravened international law and violated Palestinian rights. It would risk a diminished band of friends. Most of all BDS will flourish much to Israel’s chagrin. This may be the story of the boy crying Wolf in one of Aesop’s Fables.
Please read the searching analysis in the two following 5-minute articles for valuable insights from a Palestinian perspective.
For Palestinians, annexation spells further erasure of their history (Excerpts)
By Grace Wermenbol
As Americans embark on the long-delayed journey of reevaluating and recontextualizing their (post-) Civil War history and the legacy of slavery, they have been joined by other nations and peoples confronting the historical roots of their own societal inequalities. The required implementation of cross-community dialogue to effectively adopt the changes needed to reckon with a partial history, however, does not extend to all. Subjected to ongoing subjugation both inside Israel and the Occupied Territories, Palestinians continue to face the deliberate erasure of their physical past and, in defiance of international law, a disregard of their legitimate historic (ownership) rights. With the impending U.S.-supported annexation of West Bank territory, Palestinians living in these designated areas stand to lose not only their long-held aspirations for an independent state, but further eradication of their presence — a “spacio-cide” — in support of an Israeli-envisaged demographic and political vision.
Backed by the White House and with apparent domestic parliamentary support, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely make good on his 2019 electoral promise to impose Israeli sovereignty over up to 30 percent of the West Bank. The expiration of Netanyahu’s July 1 deadline for annexation in the midst of coalition rifts and American wavering thus appears to delay – rather than cancel – such a unilateral move. Alternate Prime Minister of Israel and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz’s opposition to annexation, for instance, centers on the desire to prioritize the current health and related economic crisis.
Many unknowns still surround annexation plans; Netanyahu’s vision of annexation does not necessarily match that of his U.S. counterparts, who still claim a cursory – if wholly unviable – commitment to the two-state solution. The failure of the U.S. administration’s “Vision for Peace” to mention 13 Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley thus invariably heralds the creation of walled-off enclaves surrounded by Israeli settlements. Questions concerning the legal status of Palestinians in the to-be-annexed areas similarly remain unresolved and the subject of Israeli political dispute. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the imposition of sovereignty will have dire consequences for the Palestinian areas and lives and livelihoods affected — even in Area C, where a de facto annexation already exists under Israeli military control. At the same time, historical trends of land expropriation and appropriation demonstrate that deliberate efforts to obfuscate Palestinian history and former inhabitants’ presence tend to follow the imposition of Israeli sovereignty.
Erasure and conversion
The establishment of the Israeli state in May 1948 following a civil war in Palestine went hand in hand with the erasure — and conversion — of the Palestinian landscape. As the prominent military leader and politician Moshe Dayan noted during a lecture at the Technion Institute in March 1969: “The Jewish villages have replaced the Arab villages, and today you would not be able to know even the names of those Arab villages […] the entirety of Arab villages themselves have no more existence.” Indeed, of the 418 depopulated villages discussed by Walid Khalidi in his ethnographic study “All that remains,” 293 (70 percent) were totally destroyed and 90 (22 percent) were largely destroyed through a combination of military and legislative steps. Consequently, for the approximately 250,000 Palestinians who remained inside Israel in the wake of the war, some of whom were internally-displaced and became “present absentees,” the past is both metaphorically and quite literally, in the words of the historian David Lowenthal, “a foreign country.”
Peace Now, an Israeli human rights group, found that between 1991 and 2018 Palestinians were granted less than half the building permits (9,536) in East Jerusalem despite making up 60 percent of the population there. Conversely, Jewish settlements, built either entirely or partly on private Palestinian property, received 21,834 permits. B’Tselem, another human rights group, revealed that in 2019, 169 Palestinian houses and non-residential structures were demolished in East Jerusalem, more than any year since 2004 and almost three times the number of structures razed without permits in 2018.The increasing power of settlement movements in East Jerusalem has also had a profound effect on Palestinian lives, driving evictions and the repurposing of Palestinian land and property. In January, the Jewish settler organization Ateret Cohanim won a lawsuit against a Palestinian family on the grounds that they resided on land, known as the Baten al-Hawa enclave of Silwan, previously owned by Jews until 1938, when British authorities ordered the residents out. The successful legal invocation of a Jewish “Right of Return” could set a precedent for a further eviction of some 700 Palestinians living in the Baten al-Hawa neighborhood.
The Jordan Valley
The above trends, in addition to experiences under Israeli security and administrative control in Area C, offer a disturbing picture of what may lie ahead for Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley. Even now, Palestinians are barred from using 85 percent of the Jordan Valley; on the land utilized and resided upon by Palestinians, demolition of (non-)residential units, including agricultural structures, and forced (temporary) evacuations to enable Israeli military exercises, ensure limited Palestinian economic development and impede daily life. Despite claims by Prime Minister Netanyahu that his plan “doesn’t annex a single Palestinian,” 47 shepherding communities consisting of 4,391 Palestinian residents currently lie in parts of Area C to be annexed. Similarly to the 1967 Allon Plan, Netanyahu has sought to justify the proposed annexation of the Jordan Valley on strategic grounds; the Jordan river, according to this premise, would become Israel’s defense border, its “Iron Wall.” The imposition of a de jure annexation will add a warped Israeli-dictated legality to contemporary inequalities. As a result, across the areas slated for annexation — and particularly in the Jordan Valley — Palestinians are likely to see a further encroachment on their lives and livelihood in an attempt to create an expanded Israel without, in Netanyahu’s vision, offering full rights and protections to the affected citizens. For a land repeatedly scarred by war and displacement, the consequential new reality will add another chapter to a history that will, itself, one day require a more honest reckoning.
*Grace Wermenbol is a non-resident scholar at MEI who specializes in the contemporary geopolitics of the MENA region. The views expressed in this piece are her own.
Palestinians have no choice but to resist in any way, shape or form
By Micheal Janson
To annex or not annex? This is the question bugging Israeli, Palestinian and international political figures since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu missed his July 1 deadline for beginning the process of formally annexing portions of the occupied West Bank. According to Netanyahu ally Ofir Akunis, Israeli officials are still working out the details of the annexation with the US Trump administration, but he expects this will take place during this month.
In an interview with Italian daily “It Fatto Quotidiano”, former Israeli Knesset speaker and peace activist Avraham Burg said, however, Donald Trump halted the annexation plan since “he doesn’t have time to help Netanyahu in implementing the annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley.” Asked when he thought implementation might go ahead, Burg replied it is “very difficult, if not impossible, to set expectations to the annexation, because there is no transparency in this plan, no one knows its details”. Burg made his name as a founder of Peace Now following Israel’s 1982 war on Lebanon and has since joined efforts to boycott goods and produce from Israel’s West Bank colonies. In 2015 he joined the leftist joint Arab-Jewish Hadash Party.
Having green-lighted Netanyahu’s intention to annex Israel’s West Bank colonies and the Jordan Valley, 30 per cent of the territory, Trump could very well be “too busy” campaigning for reelection to back up his friend in a project which has been vehemently condemned as illegal by the UN, the European Union, the Arabs, the Palestinians, the remaining four permanent members of the Security Council, and other members of the international community.
Although he claims to be running on a “law-and-order” platform, Trump is not impressed by the fact that the West Bank is regarded by international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention as “occupied territory” and deems Israeli colonization illegal. Netanyahu’s coalition partner, Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who is less keen on annexation, argues it should wait until Israel contains Covid-19 cases which have spiked just as the country was beginning to ease restrictions. Gantz, in particular, should be concerned if annexation precipitates widespread Palestinian protests and violent resistance. It will be his job to contain and crack down.
Since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ election in 2005, Israel has been largely free of the sort of attacks that took place during the Second Intifada due to security coordination between the Palestinian intelligence agencies and police and their Israeli counterparts. However, Abbas has cut contacts with Israel and halted security cooperation since Netanyahu returned to power and pledged to annex areas allocated to Israel in Trump’s “Deal of the Century” which has been roundly rejected of all and sundry. Abbas has now taken a major step further. Along with Hamas’ leaders, he has agreed to support a common Fatah-Hamas Palestinian resistance campaign which could involve violence if and when Israel annexes West Bank territory. This campaign was announced last week by Jibril Rajoub, head of Fatah’s central committee, and Saleh Al Arouri, West Bank chief of Hamas.