Annexation plan: Would global pressure be enough to stop Netanyahu from seeking now-or-never opportunity

line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

With increasing global condemnation against Israel’s infamous annexation plan, the world has been awaiting a statement from the Israeli hard-line Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, if he still plans to go ahead with the occupation of Jewish settlements in Palestinian West Bank area and Jordon Valley. The military occupation, to establish Israeli sovereignty or control on the decided areas was earlier planned to be carried out by July 1. But lacking the final green signal from US administration, Israel has been quiet on the matter. Netanyahu’s office released a statement saying that the prime minister would continue to hold discussions with the US teams “in the coming days.”On July 6, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told Kan Bet Radio that the annexation of the occupied West Bank was currently not on the government’s agenda.

The annexation plan, deemed as the “deal of the century”,was presented by US President Donald Trump in January as a ‘peace solution’ to decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While many including Egypt, UAE, Jordon, Germany, and France opposed Trump’s one-nation solution for it being an illegal military expansion, and rather rooted for two-nation solution as a fair deal and lasting peace between the two.

On Thursday, over a telephonic conversation with the Israeli leader, French President Emmanuel Macron “emphasised that such a move would contravene international law and jeopardise the possibility of a two-state solution as the basis of a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians”. Besides, foreign ministers of France, Germany, Egypt and Jordon also collectively warned Israel from proceeding with its expansion plans, adding that it would effect their relations with the country. On June 26 Belgium passed a resolution to impose sanctions, if Israel proceeded. Russia also opposed the annexation, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friendly ties with Netanyahu. 

The opponents of the plan said that if executed it would not only violate international law but also jeopardise the human rights of 2.5 million Palestinians and further damage Middle Eastern peace and stability. The UN human rights experts said that Israel’s forceful takeover of Palestinian territory would create ‘21st Century Apartheid’.

Michael Lynk, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 said that Israeli conquest would lead to “a cascade of bad human rights consequences.” He added that ‘Israel’s decision to unilaterally march ahead with the planned annexation’ would also cause a ‘severe body blow to the rules-based international order’.

According to political analyst, Netanyahu had been in a great rush to turn his imperialistic dream into reality given the limited tenure of Trump in White House. It was a now-or-never scenario for the 70-year-old Israeli leader as the current political wave did not show enough support for Trump in November election. It was only under Trump’s presidency that Washington for the first time cut its ties with Palestinian leaders, cancelled their aid and formally acknowledged Jerusalem as Israeli capital. 

Unlike Netanyahu, his coalition partner Benny Gantz soon realised the risk of going against global opinion and urged his political partner to push away the annexation plan further. Gantz cited economy as the reason for delay in the plan and said that the nation needed to focus on repairing its economy marred by the pandemic outbreak of coronavirus, while annexation plan could wait. Many said that Gantz opted for postponement of the plan in order to cool off raging criticism against Israeli move. Palestinian leaders, who called it an illegal takeover, have been backed by Jordon, Arab nations, European Union and UN. Israel’s neighbour Jordan has even threatened to withdraw from its 1994 peace treaty, in case the plan gets carried out.

According to Netanayhu’s unofficial biographer, Anshel Pfeffer, even Israeli PM would not risk going ahead with annexation, which has already attracted considerable international opposition.

“It’s not going to happen because Netanyahu doesn’t really want annexation. At least not now,” he wrote. “Netanyahu had focused on the promise of annexation as a lever to bring out the right-wing base to the ballot box But Netanyahu doesn’t need it to win an election anymore.”

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