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There is no status quo, only Greater Israel

Netanyahu’s party and government are finally making explicit what has long been implied: rejecting the premise that the Palestinians will ever have a state of their own.

Likud member Haim Katz attends the Likud Central Committee conference in Lod, December 31, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Likud member Haim Katz attends the Likud Central Committee conference in Lod, December 31, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Over the past few years, analysts have been using the term “creeping annexation” to describe Israel’s land grabbing, segregationist policies in the West Bank. But over the past few days, the country’s leaders have been openly signaling that annexation need no longer creep. It is the new game in town.

On Sunday night, Likud’s Central Committee, the body responsible for updating the party’s constitution, unanimously passed a resolution to extend Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements, effectively annexing them to­­ Israel.

The Likud decision received a significant boost from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who announced Wednesday that beginning next week, all new pieces of government-supported legislation would include a short directive on how they are to be applied to Israeli settlements. The move, Shaked said Wednesday morning at a Knesset committee hearing, will help implement government policy in the settlements and “normalize life in Judea and Samaria.”

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin joined in. “The inequality between the residents of Judea and Samaria and the rest of the country cries to the heavens,” he told the committee, referring to the difference between the legal situations for Jewish Israeli settlers and Israelis who live inside Israel proper. “Until the necessity of applying sovereignty across all parts of the Land of Israel is formalized, we must fix this absurd situation.”

Bungalows built by Israeli settlers on land seized from the Palestinian village of al-Mazraa al-Kubliyeh, near the West Bank city of Birzeit, seen on the hillside, December 3, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash 90)

Bungalows built by Israeli settlers on land seized from the Palestinian village of al-Mazraa al-Kubliyeh, near the West Bank city of Birzeit, seen on the hillside, December 3, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash 90)

Palestinians, for their part, will not likely feel the short-term consequences of these two decisions. They will continue to languish under a military regime that deprives them of their basic rights, behind walls and fences that keep them physically and psychologically out of Israeli sight.

Taken together,  Likud and Shaked’s decisions are important for both their practical and psychological implications: they are changing the paradigm. If, until now, annexation was openly championed only by those on the far-right, today it has become a fundamental tenet of Israel’s ruling party, and the Justice Ministry is continuing to lay the groundwork for its future implementation.

These are certainly not the first moves toward annexation. In February of last year, the Knesset passed the “Formalization Law,” which retroactively legalizes settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land. Months later came the “Greater Jerusalem law”, which would extend Jerusalem’s municipal umbrella over dozens of West Bank settlements, along with well over 100,000 settlers. And on Monday night the government approved the “Jerusalem Law,” which paves the way for establishing a separate, Palestinian-only municipality.

Even Israel’s Foreign Ministry treats settlements as an organic extension of the state, rather than pieces of land over which to negotiate. Commissioned by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, a new series of pamphlets to be handed out to students on U.S. college campuses explains the Israeli point of view on a variety of contentious issues. The pamphlet on settlements argues that Jews have lived in Judea and Samaria for “thousands of years,” and that labeling Jewish communities there a form “colonialism” is as “disingenuous as it is politically motivated.”

In effect, Netanyahu’s party and government are pulling off the masks and telling the world: this country fundamentally rejects the premise that Palestinians will ever have a state of their own. It means that Palestinians, politically fractured and left to fend for themselves by the rest of the world, will have to accept whatever crumbs Israel leaves after it carves up the cake. No one — not the political Left, center, or moderate Right — seems interested in stopping it.

Our inexorable march

Jewish men pray early in the morning on the hill overlooking Ofra in the Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank, December 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Jewish men pray early in the morning on the hill overlooking Ofra in the Jewish settlement of Amona in the West Bank, December 18, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Like Trump’s Jerusalem declaration in early December 2017, Shaked and the Likud Central Committee’s decision amount to pulling the plug on what has come to be known as the “status quo” in Israel-Palestine — in which one side lives under perpetual military dictatorship, while the other lives as if there is no occupation.

When it comes to the occupation, their convenient choice is the not having to make a choice. Analysts like my colleague Noam Sheizaf have explained that eschewing both the one and the two state solutions and selecting instead a third option — the status quo — feels like the rational choice for most Israelis. They do not believe the investment in peace will benefit them, and no one is pressuring them to make a decision.

But there is nothing static about the status quo. What we are witnessing is an inexorable march toward a Greater Israel.

The pivot toward out-in-the-open annexation does not just mean acknowledging what the Israeli government is doing in its own words. It also means recognizing that the vision of Greater Israel looks a lot like the vision of Historic Palestine — with Tel Aviv, Jenin, Ariel, Eilat, and Gaza City all part of the same political-territorial unit. Not everyone who shares this land necessarily wants to (though some Palestinians and Israelis certainly do), but it is becoming harder to deny that is our current reality, and most likely, our future.

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    1. Jitkundo

      Our current reality is that Gaza and Tel Aviv are part of the same political-territorial unit? Sounds like a rather silly position to take. As for the rest of the article it is just a rehash of the same article that is written here every few months. Only problem is that no one can find me the Israelis that want to send their kids to do traffic duty in Jenin.

      Israel will keep most settlements, possibly even annex the settlement blocks in the near future There is no political will to annex the entirety of the West Bank or to grant citizenship to the Palestinians and there is no good reason to believe that there will be such a political will. The 1967 lines are definitely moot at this point but there are two peoples here and two internationally recognized states. Neither wants to live with the other and there is no chance for them to get along in one state. To start with they wouldn’t even be able to agree what to call it or what it’s flag would be. So the Palestinians will sooner or later have something that looks like a small state and this will happen just as soon as they accept that they have permanently failed to destroy the Jewish state.

      You can flail against this all you want but the caravan of partition has left the station and it isn’t turning around. There is no realistic sequence of events that would end with Israeli soldiers or administrators directing traffic and running schools in Gaza City.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @JitKunDo: Just exactly how long did it take to rid South Africa of Apartheid?

        Reply to Comment
        • BOAZ

          @Bruce :

          Where have you read that Jitkundo was advocating for apartheid ?

          One state is the surest way to civil war.

          Reply to Comment
      • Ben


        Edo Konrad is talking about where the political-territorial unit is heading. You missed that, and the fact that Gaza’s borders and Gaza’s economy and Gaza’s political options are entirely controlled by a political-territorial unit called Israel. (Boaz, this is at least in part what Bruce is talking about.) The phony realism of your poses are striking. Reality does not ask people what they want to do. Where did you get the idea that this ultimately is going to depend on what the GoI or “the Israelis” want? Odd, that.

        In any case, there’s no chance that the Israeli right wing (for all practical purposes, the GoI) will agree to limited annexation on the terms I have to assume you have in mind. They will bring down the government. But even if Israel engaged in an empty limited annexation maneuver unrecognized by anyone else in the world, the apartheid that exists in Gaza and the West Bank would still exist in that annexation-manueuver-affected territory and in the rest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It’s all the same. No one’s fooled. There is no magical unilateral disappearing act available to apartheidists. People can’t be disappeared that slickly. In the overheated minds of some there’s always the frank ethnic cleansing option. WWII methodologies revisited, damn the ironies. Good luck with that. If you want a usable future.

        In reality the GoI is comprised of Feiglinist extremists masquerading as something better. But the saner ones among them know the masquerade is needed. The right wing is trapped and only half knows it.

        Now, I have to laugh at “the caravan of partition has left the station.” That pesky reality thing again. The right wing is of course busy for a long time now blowing up the tracks and pouring sand in the engine’s crank case. And busy assassinating or imprisoning any competent engineers and station masters (Palestinian, and in at least one infamous case, Israeli). For a right winger to say “the caravan is leaving the station” achieves outright satire. Old Israeli proverb: “The Likudists bark and the caravan does not move on.”

        Reply to Comment