Will Israel dare to annex parts of the West Bank?

► “We will have to see what annexation it is”

Denis Charbit, professor of political science at the Open University of Israel, author ofIsrael and its paradoxes (Éd. Le Cavalier bleu, 2018)

“For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this annexation of part of the West Bank represents what he intends to leave behind the history of Israel, a way of leaving his mark on it. The combined weaknesses of the Palestinians, the Arab world, the Israeli left, the international community and the European Union give him the feeling, to the point of intoxication, that everything is possible and that no real punishment can be struck. his country.

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It is also a race against time: not only must it succeed in having a law passed by the Knesset, but above all, the annexation must be recognized by the American administration. The victory of Democratic candidate Joe Biden on November 4 could put everything into question. Traditionally, relations with Israel have reached consensus in the United States between Democrats and Republicans, but Benyamin Netanyahu has displayed his closeness to Donald Trump so much that he shattered this bi-partisan unanimity.

It must therefore move forward and quickly. His government must present its strategy on 1er July: work is likely to start upstream, in coordination with the US administration. Unlike the annexations of East Jerusalem in 1967 and the Golan Heights in 1981, decreed unilaterally by Israel, the project is part of a “package deal”: the “peace plan” presented by Donald Trump At the end of January, in addition to annexing part of the West Bank, plans to create a future Palestinian state. The problem is that it does not condition each other and does not set a timetable for this second part.

Some in the US administration are in good faith and do not want a dupe deal in which Israel would only take whatever it pleases. But others, such as the US ambassador to Jerusalem, have already shown that they do not care about counterparties. What will be the balance of power between these two trends? We will find out very soon.

If there is annexation, we will have to see what annexation it is. Will it concern only Israeli settlement blocks or also Palestinian villages, and what status will be offered to their inhabitants in the latter case? There are several scenarios and I think that is how we should understand the cautious message sent by the European Union which says, in essence, that its reaction will depend on the depth of the annexation. She also knows that Benyamin Netanyahu no longer has a free hand, because his new government has as many ministers from the center as from the right. These newcomers are much more responsible and moderate in their approach. “

► “The disadvantages outweigh the advantages”

Frédérique Schillo is a historian, author of The Yom Kippur War will not take place (André Versaille Editions) and contributed to Jerusalem (Books / Robert Laffont).

“The annexation of part of the West Bank is an old promise of Benjamin Netanyahu, even before the” Trump plan “, and which he gradually clarified, first evoking the colony blocks of Maale Adoumin and Goush Etzion , then the Jordan Valley during its last electoral campaign. Why would he implement it today when he has never done it in the past? Several elements suggest to me that it will not go to the end.

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Certainly, the religious Zionists are calling for the annexation of the entire West Bank, but their pressure is less since they are now part of the opposition. We rather hear about “sections” of the West Bank and, since this annexation would take place within the framework of the “Trump plan”, the American administration is already working on a division of the area with a scalpel with the aim of minimizing the number of Palestinians in the annexed areas. Donald Trump himself needs this annexation in his electoral campaign to satisfy his evangelical electorate, but part of his administration hesitates, aware of the risks.

First, there is a security risk: that of a new intifada or even of a collapse of the Palestinian Authority that would force the Israeli army to intervene in the areas it controls. And that, the Israeli security services have always said they did not want it. There is also the diplomatic risk of a breakdown in relations with Jordan.

The problem would also be legal, ethical and democratic: what status will Israel offer to Palestinians living in the annexed areas? If it denies them citizenship, the country will become the only one in the world with religion as its criterion, clearly becoming an apartheid regime. According to a survey published last week by the Israel Democratic Institute, 37% of Israeli Jews are ready to grant them no status, 24% to offer them resident status like Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and only 20% want their grant citizenship.

I think that for Israel the risks would outweigh the benefits of an annexation. In fact, only 52% of Israelis support it and 33% of Israelis believe it will take place. Many today have other, more pressing concerns, such as ending the health and economic crisis hitting the country. Benjamin Netanyahu does not need a unilateral annexation in full view of the international community. He can continue to play on the current ambiguity: annexing without saying it, giving the settlers a little more rights every day. “


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