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Annexation is more than just a declaration

By drawing a line at formal annexation, the international community is hobbling its ability to respond to Israeli changes on the ground.

The Israeli separation wall surrounds the East Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Ze'ev, April 9, 2011. (Activestills.org)

The Israeli separation wall surrounds the East Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev, April 9, 2011. (Activestills.org)

Benjamin Netanyahu declared on the eve of Israel’s April 9 elections that if reelected he would begin annexing the West Bank. Only, if we’re being precise, he didn’t. Israeli leaders have almost never used the word annexation, yet the absence of that terminology has never prevented the country from permanently acquiring territory by force.

Netanyahu did not say that he will formally annex the West Bank but what he did say is that he will gradually extend sovereignty to every last Israeli settlement in the territory. What he has said countless times over the past decade is that Israel will maintain full military control over the entire West Bank forever.

The only change is that Netanyahu has stopped paying lip service to the idea of a two-state solution; now he is going to take explicit credit for implementing the policy he has pursued unswervingly since entering politics — to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state .

For far too long the international community, supporters of Israel in the United States, and even those on the left in Israel have, by allowing themselves to be lied to about Israel’s intentions about a two-state solution, been naively deceiving themselves.

Much of that deception was rooted in the discourse of closing windows of opportunity. We need to act before it’s too late, they would say, without any willingness to discuss when or where the “too late” line lies. Worse, they refused to ask themselves honestly what would happen — or what they would do — when it was crossed.

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That isn’t to say that if progressive American Jews or European governments had agreed there was a line in the sand that we would have a two-state solution today. But maybe, just maybe, they would have been better positioned to respond when it was irrevocably crossed.

Which brings us back to today. Netanyahu wants to annex the settlements, refuses to end the military occupation of the West Bank, and will no longer entertain the idea of even a sovereign-less, “state-minus” version of Palestine. The White House will not even condemn the prospect of Israeli annexation in the West Bank and is expected within the next few days to reveal its own plan, which will leave the two-state idea in the dustbin of failed ideas.

With the exception of a generation of politicians and think-tank pundits who have invested too much of their careers in the two-state solution to acknowledge its failure, there is a growing consensus that it is no longer possible.

The problem is that nobody, including the Palestinian leadership, has a contingency plan despite years of warnings that crossing the two-state threshold would lead to disaster. That same mistake is about to happen again with talk of annexation.

By insisting on using the word annexation, the international community is hobbling its ability to respond to Israeli policies and actions, as well as its ability to assess what is taking place.

Netanyahu is aware of the danger of red lines, which is exactly why he will not make any grand announcement that Israel is formally annexing the West Bank. He doesn’t need to. The actions and policies of every Israeli government for decades have been slowly building the conditions for annexation. Those undeclared-yet-very-real steps will deliver the same result.

This is why we need a new vocabulary for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Annexation is too rigid a framework to describe Israel’s efforts to make its rule over the occupied Palestinian territories permanent.

Occupation, too, will soon be a counterproductive term to describe a military regime that rules over millions of people, with separate laws and legal systems for different ethnic and national groups.

As many analysts have noted, the results of the elections in Israel last week spell more of the same in many ways. More of the same, however, refers not to a static situation but rather continuing along the trajectory set in recent years by Benjamin Netanyahu and the cohort of ideologues from whom he draws his power..

At this point, however, to continue to tell oneself that Netanyahu’s trajectory and ideology are an aberration, or that he doesn’t represent the will of the Israeli people, is a conscious decision to be complicit.

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    COMMENTS

    1. itshak Gordine

      Can we speak of annexation when it comes to the historical, national and religious heritage of the Jewish people?

      Reply to Comment
      • Ray

        So, somehow, before the foundation of Israel, Jews around the world had no “historical, national and religious heritage?” Or, somehow having a formal state is a necessary prerequisite?

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Before the modern State of Israel, Jews did have a historical, national and religious heritage. But the Ottoman Turks denied the Jews the right to return to the Land of Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • john

            the first aliyah happened during the ottoman period.

            Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Halevy if your racist theories and your racist rabbis and the stones you worship don’t allow you to speak of annexation then just call it theft. Like any good gangster worth his salt. There, I solved your problem.
        You left out the heritage of the indigenous Palestinian people in the territories, who are genetically at least as related to the ancient inhabitants as you are (if you wanna get racial about it, which you do), and in any event have been there for centuries, while you have not, and so have a historical, national and religious heritage in the same land.
        Ray is right. You have turned Judaism into a cultic land-fetish. And are willing to do brutal and criminal things in the service of that fetish. Your version of Judaism, Halevy, is just one extremist sect, an offshoot, it is not the “real” Judaism.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      “we need a new vocabulary…Annexation is too rigid a framework…Occupation, too, will soon be a counterproductive term”

      Pending a new vocabulary, that leaves “apartheid” as the surviving proper, flexible, productive term (for the practices within the entity comprising Israel and the territories it occupies).

      But while we are focusing on vocabularies and terms, what’s shall we make of your use of the term, “the Israeli people,” Michael? What “Israeli people”? Israel has always refused to recognize an Israeli people. It insists on ethnic terms exclusively. Who are “the Israeli people”? Surely you should replace “Israeli people” with “Israeli Jews” in your last sentence if we are to maintain accuracy and verisimilitude?
      Don’t get me wrong, I would love for their to be an Israeli-recognized “Israeli people.” If and when that happens great progress will have been made. But Israel and it’s Jewish citizens, in their government, laws, documents, practices and social structures, have insistently refused to recognize “the Israeli people.” (All the while claiming to be a modern Western democratic country just like any other.)

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben

      Another day in the apartheid paradise:

      Once Again, Israel’s Courts Collaborate With Government anti-Arab Housing Policy

      ….Once again the courts (both the Jerusalem District Court and Supreme Court) that dealt with the request to delay the demolition orders refused to address the substantive argument regarding the failure of the authorities to approve construction plans in these areas for years, leaving residents no real choice but to build without a permit.
      Even worse, the Jerusalem District Court essentially accepted this endless planning process, citing it when it rejected the appellants’ request to delay the demolition order to give them a chance to get approval for the plan they’d submitted. Thus the policy of dragging out planning and construction procedures endlessly, until people simply can no longer obey the law, gains legitimacy.
      …As Nir Hasson has written in this newspaper, in the parallel universe of Jewish construction, the illegal building by the Elad NGO has gotten totally different treatment. In Elad’s case, although the municipality had issued demolition orders, it agreed to delay implementing them until a plan could be approved that would legalize the construction. Unlike the Arab residents of East Jerusalem, all the paths are open for Elad, a government favorite, to get advance approvals for its moves. Nevertheless, the NGO built without a permit, presumably on the assumption it would be forgiven – an assumption that turned out to be accurate.
      …We’re speaking, therefore, of serious ethnic-based discrimination, and there is no government official in the Jewish state crying out against it. The infrastructure is being laid, openly, for a form of apartheid rule in those areas of Judea and Samaria that will be annexed to Israel, where there will be masters and there will be those whose presence is a nuisance. All this, as per the nation-state law, will come to encourage, promote, and strengthen Jewish settlement….
      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-once-again-israel-s-courts-collaborate-with-government-anti-arab-housing-policy-1.7133798

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      In addition to “apartheid” we might add “totalitarian” to useful, productive terms.

      And how about this neologism, “boycottorrhea” = “abuse for political persecution purposes of the term ‘boycott’ while also reserving the right to boycott others” — or “boycottorrhea-hypocrisy”?

      A travesty ==>

      Israeli Court Rejects Senior Human Rights Watch Official’s Petition Against Deportation
      Omar Shakir’s residency permit canceled over accusations that he promotes boycotting Israel ■ Lawyers plan to appeal, say ruling endangers human rights groups

      …In a statement, Human Rights Watch said that the court’s decision “describes as ‘boycott-promoting activities’ Human Rights Watch’s research on the activities of businesses, including the global tourism companies Airbnb and Booking.com, and its recommendation that they cease operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”
      The group claimed that “neither Human Rights Watch nor Shakir as its representative promotes boycotts of Israel. The advocacy in question focuses exclusively on the Israeli occupied West Bank.”…

      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israeli-court-rejects-human-rights-watch-official-s-petition-against-deportation-1.7133613

      Reply to Comment