US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu File picture: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu File picture: Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Israel in race to annex Palestinian land while Trump still in office

By Shannon Ebrahim Time of article published Jun 23, 2020

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The reason Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in a rush to annex 30% of West Bank Palestinian land is because he knows that if US President Donald Trump leaves the White House, Israel will no longer have the political cover it needs in the UN Security Council for this violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions.

In his own words: “We must seize the opportunity now with Trump in the White House.”

Netanyahu has called this a “historic opportunity which hasn’t existed since 1948 to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. It is an opportunity we won’t let pass by”.

July 1 is the start date for Israeli cabinet discussions on the annexation, and Israeli spies are calling for Netanyahu’s plans to be expedited while the world is distracted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On June 7, the Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, Yariv Levin, said Israel would move forward within weeks. The US is abetting the violation of international law, and without consequences for the actions of the US and Israel, annexation will not be forestalled.

Israel’s annexation would extend Israeli sovereignty over most of the Jordan Valley and all 235 illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, taking 30% of West Bank land - plans endorsed by the latest US Plan.

For the Palestinians, it is grand theft of what little land is left. The West Bank and Gaza Strip together represent only 22% of what was Palestine before the State of Israel was created in 1948. What would be left if a further 30% was annexed would be a tiny Bantustan - islands of disconnected pieces of land surrounded by Israel.

This would mean two people living in the same space ruled by the same state with unequal rights - a vision of 21st-century apartheid.

With the US as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, there have been no countermeasures taken to remedy Israel’s unlawful actions. While the UN has criticised continued settlement building, construction carries on with impunity.

The international community has a political responsibility to defend a rules-based international order and to give effect to UN resolutions. Measures have been successfully applied by the UN Security Council in other crises, but never to Israel.

There has not been adequate international pressure to make Israel rethink its plans. Only the German and French foreign ministers recently made it clear that the annexation plans were unacceptable and a violation of international law.

Hillel Frisch, from Bar Ilan University in Israel, has said: “Internal politics, instead of international pressure, are key factors that will determine whether Israel will move forward with annexation.”

But it is left to civil society to mobilise resistance, and campaigns are being launched by human rights activists and international law experts. In South Africa, we saw the launch last week of the Global South Campaign against annexation of Palestinian land.

* Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media's group foreign editor.

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