The Annexation of Palestine Could Be Closer Than you Think

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Members of Knesset from the Likud and Jewish Home parties, including Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (R), take part in an event demanding the annexation of West Bank settlement Ma’ale Adumim, Jerusalem, October 31, 2016. (photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

A perfect storm of domestic Israeli politics combined with the changing of the guard in Washington could create an opportunity for those advocating annexation to finally make their move.

By Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man / +972 Magazine
January 1, 2017


Since his election, President-elect Trump has been sending clear signals that his administration’s policy toward Israel, and especially the settlements, will be markedly different from that of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and, one would conclude, the previous eight American presidents since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967. The president-elect has not minced words, tweeting in response to John Kerry’s 75-minute admonition of Israel’s settlement policy: “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”


Senior Israeli government minister Naftali Bennett announced on Sunday that he will introduce legislation to effectively annex Israel’s third-largest settlement in the West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim, by the end of January. It is safe to assume, that when Bennett says “by the end of January,” he means after the January 20 inauguration of Donald Trump.

Bennett’s desire to incrementally annex parts of the West Bank are neither new nor secret. The chairman of the Jewish Home party has run on a platform of annexation since he first ran for office in 2013 and in every election since. Through short videos and aggressive sound bites, the Israeli education minister has attempted shift the public discourse, in Israel and around the world, toward his annexationist aims. . . .

Ayelet Shaked, also of Bennett’s Jewish Home party and now Israel’s justice minister, in the past advocated annexing the Gush Etzion settlement bloc. More recently she announced plans to apply Israeli civil law to the occupied territories, which is considered de facto annexation (the West Bank is currently subject to Israeli military law). A few months ago Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely made a direct demand of her government. Similar pleas and plans can be heard on an almost daily basis throughout the Israeli government and ruling coalition, not to mention in right-wing circles and media outside the government. And while demands from within the government to advance annexation have become the new normal in recent years, for a variety of reasons they are often dismissed as fringe or unrealistic.

There are two main political reasons why the chorus within the Israeli government calling for various iterations of annexation should be treated more seriously this time around. The first, and most obvious, is the incoming Trump administration in Washington.

Since his election, President-elect Trump has been sending clear signals that his administration’s policy toward Israel, and especially the settlements, will be markedly different from that of Barack Obama, John Kerry, and, one would conclude, the previous eight American presidents since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories in 1967. The president-elect has not minced words, tweeting in response to John Kerry’s 75-minute admonition of Israel’s settlement policy: “Stay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching!”

Stepping back from Twitter, of course, things are not so clear cut. Trump has also indicated that he hopes (or plans) to take yet another stab at America’s longtime foreign policy pastime: trying to broker an improbable peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. If Trump has any peacemaking aspirations, it would not be logical for him to support even modest Israeli moves toward annexation. That said, Israel has not historically been all too bothered by the prospect of angering American presidents — Democrat and Republican alike — over its settlement policies, so the prospect of Netanyahu defying even Trump on the settlements position is not all that farfetched. Nor is Trump known for classically linear logic.

The second, and more important reason we should be taking the growing chorus of annexation-talk more seriously has everything to do with domestic Israeli politics and Benjamin Netanyahu’s most dominant trait: political survival. Naftali Bennett does not head a particularly large party, and on his own he is fairly limited in his ability to force policy on Netanyahu. Where Bennett knows he can be more successful, however, is in slowly shifting this government’s direction by challenging Netanyahu’s right-wing credentials.

[Read the full article here . . . ]

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