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Is Israeli annexation of Area C of the West Bank imminent?

I started to think that a formal, unilateral annexation of Israeli-controlled Area C is imminent in May, when I saw this video (Hebrew) advocating the move. A public relations ploy designed to convince Israelis that annexing Area C is good for their future—and that giving the Palestinians who live in the area citizenship or residency won’t disturb Israel’s demographic balance—the video was put on YouTube by settler leader Naftali Bennett.

After he made a fortune in high-tech, Bennett served as Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff from 2006 to 2008 (before Netanyahu was Prime Minister). He went on to become the Director General of the Yesha Council, the umbrella organization for Israeli settlements. Earlier this year, Bennett formed a new political party called My Israel. He also has ties to the extra-parliamentary movement Im Tirtzu.

While Bennett is not exactly a household name, he is influential, well-funded, and well-connected. He reflects trends within both the settler movement and the right-wing government that caters to settlers—echoing much of the rhetoric that Netanyahu dishes out about the supposed indefensibility of the 1967 borders. Bennett’s video means something, especially when taken within a larger context.

And what is that larger context? The last year has seen an increase in the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank as well as a marked rise in the demolition of Palestinian and Bedouin structures in the same area. According to Israel Hayom, the settler population has grown 4.5 percent this year, passing the 350,000 mark. Over 15,500 Israeli citizens moved beyond the Green Line in the last year, making 2011 a record-breaking year of settlement growth.

At the same time that Israeli settlements are expanding unchecked, the state is putting the Palestinians and Bedouins who live in Area C under extreme, unrelenting pressure, as exemplified by this week’s report by Haaretz that Defense Minister Barak has ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages to make way for IDF training.

Demolitions of homes and structures in 2012 have seen an increase. According to a source at the United Nations, between January 1 and April 27 of 2011, 352 Palestinian and Bedouin were forcibly displaced from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The same period of 2012 saw “at least 487″ people lose their homes.

It’s a one-two punch intended to increase the Jewish population in the West Bank as much as possible and deplete the Palestinian population as much as possible to ready the area for annexation. Susya, a Palestinian village that is under threat of demolition, is an example of how this works. The village has been destroyed numerous times since the Jewish settlement of Susya was built there in 1983, despite the documents proving it belongs to Palestinians and the fact that this small community has no where else to go.

Israeli pressure on the Palestinian and Bedouin residents of Area C has resulted in a drop in the Arab population in the same area.

And then there’s the Levy Committee Report, which denies that there is an occupation and, according to some observers, lays the legal groundwork (at least in the mind of the Israeli government) for a unilateral annexation of Area C.

It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. I started to wonder about this last year, when the authorities announced plans to forcibly transfer all the Bedouin out of Area C. An expulsion of 27,000 people is a pretty significant decision to take. I was also interested to note that the Bedouin villages that were mentioned first (Khan al-Ahmar, for example) lie in between large settlement blocs that are earmarked for expansion.

      Reply to Comment
    2. John Turnbull

      My guess is that some pre-US-election belligerence toward Iran will provide a news cover for the annexation. The media will wake up a week later and report on the regretted necessity of stabilizing a failing PA by assuming civilian control. Gaza will get a kick in the teeth to prove it.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard SM

      There’s a definite sense of something going on, but look at the background and context first:
      .
      After Netanyahu stood in The White House just over a year ago and rejected Obama’s peace plan it’s quite obvious Obama would make a second and more forceful attempt if re-elected. An Obama second-term is looking more and more likely. Mubarek’s hold on Egypt has been broken, the MB have been elected in Egypt and Hamas are likely to get stronger and probably elected in the West Bank as well as Gaza. If Israel is to make a grab for the West Bank, then now is the time to do it: Syria is in a mess, Egypt is weak, Iran daren’t make a false move – thanks to the drama Netanyahu created earlier in the year.
      .
      At the start of the year Netanyahu established the Levy Committee to assess the legality of settler outposts and the occupation -– the outcome of which we know — and around the same time he asked UNRWA for a detailed list of the remaining original Palestinian refugees who were personally displaced, as opposed to their descendants. Why would he do that? Then in May this year, and for no obvious reason, US Senator Mark Kirk had his bill which requires the State Department to distinguish between Palestinians displaced in 1948 and their descendants. It scales the Right-to-return number from five million down to about 30,000. They could easily be absorbed if they want to return. Not to be too callous, but they’re all towards the end of their lives anyway. Their presence would be limited.
      .
      Then there are more recent events. Has anyone noticed that foreign activists are being arrested and expelled at the moment? A lot of Palestinian media offices in the W.Bank have been raided in recent weeks and their equipment confiscated. And Israeli authorities have demanded to know the timing of all UNOCHA projects and all the staff details. Why the sudden change?
      .
      Something audacious is about to happen in the coming months. Looks like Area C is about to be formally annexed. With something like that, ordinarily Obama might abstain at the UNSC and let a serious resolution be adopted, but timed to coincide with the critical part of the US elections and you can be sure it’ll be vetoed.

      Reply to Comment
    4. romweb

      And what about the over 250,000 “settlers” in East Jerusalem, also over the Green Line?

      Reply to Comment
    5. And why, exactly would Israel do this?

      There are few advantages – Israel basically does whatever it wants to in Area C anyway: create or expand settlements, build roads, exploit resources, (re)move Palestinians at will, … The disadvantages are large and clear: having to offer Palestinians citizenship, further alienating world public opinion, pissing off the U.S., losing the pretext that this is all about security, …

      So why bother? The current situation is annexation for all practical purposes. In many ways (from the gov’t perspective) its even better than formal annexation.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      There is no major risk of an Israeli annexation because the status quo is fine. If there is an annexation of Area C it would likely be in response to a unilateral Palestinian action undermining the status quo such as achieving state status at the UN. The WB is disputed because no country has sovereign ownership. This situation remains while there is no Palestinian state and its borders are subject to negotiations. If the Palestinians get a state they can claim that all the territory is now theirs on the basis of absence of other strong claims by sovereign nations. Annexation of area C with granting citizenship to its Arab residents would basically reestablish the status quo. The move is not likely to be recognized internationally, but it would create a new and reasonably sustainable status quo on the ground. Palestine would declare its borders as the 1967 lines. Israel would declare its border as the 1948 lines plus much or all of area C. The area over which both countries have claims will be disputed, but with Israeli control and additional settlement the dispute at a certain point becomes theoretical. Future negotiations would have to take this reality into account which allows interim agreements but probably permanently removes final status talks off the table. This looks an awful lot like a two state scenario with a territorial dispute in which one party has an overwhelming advantage in terms of practical possession and the other party has increasingly anachronistic revanchist demands.
      .

      If there is preparation for annexation it is almost entirely in order to deal with this kind of scenario.

      Reply to Comment
    7. the other joe

      Why? I suspect simple expediency. Lots of settlers want to move to Area C and it is easier to justify that if the land is considered to be fully part of Israel rather than annexed.
      .
      Sadly it seems the chances of a negotiated peaceful and fair settlement are fast receding and that in the end all of the land of mandate Palestine will be controlled by Israel. Palestinians will have the choice of becoming citizens of Israel, leaving the territories altogether or all-out war. I suspect organised violent resistance to a full military invasion would be very short-lived and would inevitably lead to the vast majority becoming refugees in Jordan and the complete destruction of all Palestinian civil structures.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Kahalani

      A negative article on Israel by an author who writes for CounterPunch and Al Jazeera. Big surprise!

      The fact that you base your news off of Haaretz demonstrates your foreignness to Israel and being out of touch with life there. Haaretz – the newspaper of leftist non-Israelis.

      What, Bedouins should be allowed to squat wherever they like? That sounds like a great life plan!

      Reply to Comment
    9. Danny

      Yes, it sure smells like creeping annexation. I wonder if it’s coordinated with the White House or not. Would Obama really veto a UNSC condemnation of Israel’s annexation of area C? How would he possibly justify that, even in an election year? And when the Palestinian launch yet another (justified) intifada in response, would Obama side with them or with Israel? So many unanswerable questions!

      Reply to Comment
    10. max

      What? A full 4.5% more settlers this year? A record breaking year of growth? Unbelievable.
      Must be special.
      Unless, of course, one applies statistical basics and gets more numbers, showing that the trend is the same as for the last 30 years.
      Incredible how silly grown ups can be. The typical place where right- and left-extremists meet: bogus-facts conspiracy land.
      .
      BTW, I do think that displacing people is a tragedy that can and should be avoided, when they had little choice but be where they were.

      Reply to Comment
    11. max

      @Danny – with so many questions about a fabricated ‘theory’, wouldn’t you rather drop the theory? I guess not if the concept fits your bias :)

      Reply to Comment
    12. Danny

      @Max – When the facts agree with the theory, one must take notice. If Israel continues to displace Palestinians in area C, build the wall and move more and more Jews into the freshly vacated areas, one must come to the proper conclusions. Like our dear PM said last year – if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be an annexation duck.

      Reply to Comment
    13. max

      @Danny – the fact is that there’s nothing special this year compared to the previous 30 years – the very base for this post is factually wrong.
      The fact is that you asked many questions about guesses – fabrications – that don’t fit.
      The fact is that no one so far has offered a reason for such a move.
      The duck is the theory – if it looks like rubbish, defended by rubbish logic, it must be a duck.
      .
      I do believe that there’s a possibility that Israel will annex (parts of) Area C as a reaction to a unilateral declaration of independence. I don’t see why it would waste the threat for less.
      But it’s a nice theory when there’s nothing better to bash Israel about, and when it – again – doesn’t happen I’m sure you won’t learn from it :)

      Reply to Comment
    14. Max, I know statistics are tough, but reading is even thougher obviously. Mya states that:
      “The last year has seen an increase in the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank as well as a marked rise in the demolition of Palestinian and Bedouin structures in the same area. According to Israel Hayom, the settler population has grown 4.5 percent this year, passing the 350,000 mark.”
      An increase in the number, not in the percentage. If as you see the percentage has been the same over 30 years, that means that by now 4.5% is vastly more in absolute numbers than 30 years ago. And we are talking occupation here, so absolute numbers matter, since the space does not grow with the number of settlers. She does not say that the percentage has grown to 4.5%.
      Your childish obfuscations are only helpfull to the defenders of this indefensible system like yourself, I fear.

      Reply to Comment
    15. max

      @EL, Mya identified a record breaking year and you define a record breaking logic

      Reply to Comment
    16. Max, if the percentage is constant over 30 years then every year is a record breaking year in absolute numbers. If settlers were cash, the Palestinians would all be millionaires by now.

      Reply to Comment
    17. joel

      So where is the Palestinian leadership?
      Doesn’t the Palestinian leadership read the tea leaves or 972mag or Dani Dayan’s NYTimes Op Ed piece.

      With annexation imminent, the Pal leaders should be clamoring for an immediate peace summit if only to forestall the annexation.

      Am I wrong? Did I miss something?

      Reply to Comment
    18. Joel, which Palestinian leadership is that? You mean the PA – the ones who are corrupt and in bed with the occupation? They’re happy to sit in Ramalah – their lives are great there!

      The Palestinians are clamoring, but they just don’t have anybody who will listen to them in Washington or Israel (or their respective media outlets).

      A peace summit? Really? Haven’t you learnt anything from almost 20 years of peace negotiations? I think they’ll probably use other tactics this time.

      Reply to Comment
    19. XYZ

      Joel-
      You complain about the “corrupt PA administration” in Ramallah. Well, what about the HAMAS regime that is cozying up to the New Egypt under the Muslim Brotherood. Do you think they will do what you want and sit down and negotiate a compromise peace agreement with Israel?

      You say the “Palestinians are clamoring”. Clamoring for what? A compromise peace? Or someone who will make a formal delivery of the long shopping list of Palestinian grievances and demands to Washington and the EU to make some sort of demand to Israel to acceed to these long list of demands? Ain’t gonna happen.

      Reply to Comment
    20. joel

      @Matt
      @XYZ

      “The Palestinians are clamoring, but they just don’t have anybody who will listen to them..”

      Bosh! The Quartet is 100% behind a two-State solution and over 100 countries have recognized Palestinian independence.

      All the PA has to do is pick up the phone and negotiations would begin directly.

      In my opinion, that the PA doesn’t want to negotiate a peace deal and the PA’s failure to act in the face of annexation is proof positive of that.

      Reply to Comment
    21. un2here

      Peops, wake up: The negotiations regarding a possible two-state solution have ended. Israeli borders will in that case remain as they were before -67. I suggest Israel accept that rather than permanenting the current single state, which do not have an overwhelmingly Jewish identity.

      Reply to Comment
    22. sh

      @Joel – “All the PA has to do is pick up the phone and negotiations would begin directly.”
      What has long got lost from view is that negotiations are not the purpose, they are a means to achieve a purpose. 20 years of negotiations have achieved Israel’s purpose, which is time to isolate, bully, evict, expropriate and murder Palestinians in the hope that they’ll leave of their own accord.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Joel

      Oslo, Camp David, Taba, Olmert-Abbas.

      Never happened?

      Reply to Comment
    24. annie

      “Each year, hundreds of Palestinians in Area C have their homes demolished by the Israeli authorities because they are unable to obtain permits for their buildings. In 2011 alone, about 1,100 Palestinians were displaced due to home demolitions by Israeli forces, over 80 percent more than in 2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report.

      “The Israeli authorities claim that structures are demolished because they lack building permits. However, the reality is that it is next to impossible for Palestinians to obtain such permits, leaving them no option but to build without them to meet their basic needs for shelter,” Ramesh Rajasingham, head of OCHA in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), told IRIN.”

      EU donors have applied: “So far, a total of 24 master plans have been submitted; four were technically approved by the Israeli government in January 2011, but no permits have yet been issued.”

      they are annexing sans the announcement. israel has been stealing palestine since it’s inception, this is no different.

      Reply to Comment
    25. annie

      “All the PA has to do is pick up the phone and negotiations would begin directly.” negotiations for what joel? didn’t you read the palestine papers? the opportunity is always there for palestine to negotiate their own demise, there’s no evidence israel will agree to anything other than that. would you like the hangman’s noose palestine, or the guillotine? choose whichever but the settlements won’t stop. how very generous of you and thanks for personifying the israeli offer, once again.

      Reply to Comment
    26. ginger

      Don’t miss the NYTimes article by settler Dani Daylan as he argues
      ‘Israel’s Settlers Are Here to Stay’
      .
      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/26/opinion/israels-settlers-are-here-to-stay.html?_r=1&hp
      .
      He’s the perfect poster boy for the new hasbara line that we’re hearing in the mainstream now – now that they are abandoning the obsolete hasbara line. Now we hear that Judea and Samaria have always belonged to Israel. The Levy Report is just a symptom/underpinning of the new hasbara
      .
      Israel can no longer play the charades about 2 state because Israel has simply advanced the Apartheid One State too far for it to be anything credible and not simply ridiculous on it’s face. .
      .
      So now they’re arguing for the Apartheid One State and trying to keep a straight face. They are ridiculous and should be laughed at and challenged at every opportunity

      Reply to Comment
    27. yeah

      Of course, Israel is going to annex area C. Payback to Obama for flooding Israel with Africans.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Prometheus

      Actually to annex (part) of C territories is the best course of action in current situation.
      After uproar and fuss there finally be viable two state solution de-facto. Probably there will be land swaps.
      Passage from WB to Gaza is not a problem technically, and will certainly be implemented.
      Arab countries are too busy with their own (or brought upon them) problems. All the rest won’t give a dime.
      Yep. It certainly seems that the Gordian Knot entangling Israel and to-be Palestine is going to be cut.
      .
      p.s. One State (apartheid or not) is not an option. At all. Only someone totally unfamiliar with Israeli (Arab and Jewish) view on the conflict could think of such nonsense.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Prometheus

      Status Quo is not fine actually.
      It creates tremendous number of problems in Israel, starting with expenses of checkpoints network, and ending with beaten international activists on youtube.
      It’s bad for state, it’s bad for business, it’s bad for Jews and it only makes things worse for Palestinians.
      .
      Status Quo must be ended ASAP, otherwise Israel might face problems it will find very difficult to resolve.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Kolumn9

      @Prometheus, at the moment the status quo is fine and annexation does nothing to solve the problems that you point out. When/if the status quo becomes untenable Israel can unilaterally establish its own borders through partial annexation and unilateral disengagement from everything outside those borders. Alternatively if the Palestinians unilaterally act to change the status of the West Bank, then it might make sense to annex large chunks for tactical reasons. In the meantime there are costs but no benefits to any annexation.

      Reply to Comment
    31. LS

      Israel will depopulate area C of Palestinians before formally annexing the land so few if any will remain, at most a few thousand. The cost to Israel in maintaining them will be negligible and if they are offered Israeli citizenship their number will make little difference to voting patterns. In fact this plan for a full land seizure without having to take on the indigenous population as well should go down in the annals of fascism as a brilliant strategy.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Kolumn9

      @LS, there is no plan to depopulate area C. There is a plan to ensure that the Palestinian Authority does not exercise any authority in the area until after a permanent peace treaty. There is also a plan to ensure that the Palestinians do not themselves proceed to establish facts on the ground by setting up temporary tent encampments and then calling them villages, which is what happens in the South Hebron hills.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Tom

      The Israelis continue to steal land from the Palestinians and the world stands by and does nothing. It is no use looking to our governments to take any action so I call on everyone to boycott Israeli goods and companies. When you go to the supermarket check where the any food item is produced – if it is from Israel don’t buy it.

      Reply to Comment
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