Why is the Annexation of the West Bank a bad thing?
As mentioned earlier, in light of the current political climate and attitudes towards colonialism which individuals deem as a tragedy of the past, it can be rather intuitive to understand why the seizing of land from the Palestinians by the Israelis is simply not morally or even legally sound, and however compelling the sheer nature of injustice may seem to the politically active youth, there are more political issues that can also contribute to the notion that the annexation of the West Bank is an erroneous decision for both Palestine and Israel itself.
Unambiguously, the seizure of land from the West Bank by Israel would be bad for the Palestinian people: Israel has more than showcased in the past their lack of respect and value for the lives of Palestinian civilians and how they have no intention of granting them equal human rights. Throughout 2019 alone, Israel has been nothing but apathetic towards the lives of Palestinians as the Israeli forces fired live ammunition into a crowd of peacefully protesting civilians, killing 34 people and injuring 1,883 individuals. During May, Israeli airstrikes were responsible for the death of another 25 Palestinians. The authorities destroyed 504 Palestinian homes and structures across 2019, displacing 642 people as of the 16th of September, which was higher than the number of individuals displaced in total in 2018. Families living in the Gaza strip were subjected to an average of only 12 hours of electricity a day until October of 2019, nearly double the 2018 average thanks to fuel being provided by Qatar. As punishment for incendiary balloons launched by Palestinians on Israel, the forces restricted access to water for fishermen from 15 nautical miles to 10, both in breach of the agreed 20 nautical miles as per the Oslo accords signed in 1993 and severely affecting the livelihoods of the estimated 6,500 workers in the fishing industry, as well as closing their border with Israel, restricting the movement of goods and people and disrupting their fuel supply. This idea of inflicting collective punishment in response to the actions of a few is in direct breach of international humanitarian law, again demonstrating Israel’s unabashed attitude and blatant disregard for the law. These actions which have all taken place within 2019 alone should serve to convince you of Israel’s frankly impertinent disposition with regards to the Palestinian populace, and should highlight to you the terrifying reality of what the lives for Palestinian individuals would be like if the West Bank were to be annexed: the Palestinian people are not even close to achieving basic human rights let alone equal rights in comparison to Israeli citizens, and if they were to be subjected to Israeli law there is no doubt that the realities of their lives would be incredibly harsh and just another instance of the world failing to protect a vulnerable ethnic group in need of support.
However, it is questionable whether the unfairness of the annexation on the Palestinian people would evoke enough sympathy within the Israeli government for them to halt their plans, and so let us also look at what negative consequences would face Israel following their annexation of the West Bank: whilst the US’s undisputed backing of Israel leading to the nonpartisan granting of the Israeli right wing’s wishes is evidently firm under the Trump administration, his main rival in the upcoming US elections Joe Biden has declared that he does not support the annexation and will revoke Trump’s Peace Plan upon election, which is in line with the majority of the Democrat party’s views upon the matter , alluding to the possibility that the US’s previously unequivocal alliance with Israel may begin to crumble as a result of the annexation. What some have come to refer to as the US-Israel special relationship is potentially under threat as a result of the annexation, and it is not unfounded to say that threatening the loss of this relationship would be a huge blow to Israel’s international economic and political position.
This sentiment is harboured across Europe where Germany, France and the UK have established their positions on the matter as being against the annexation. As a result of Britain being the colonial power overseeing Palestine prior to the 1948 creation of the state of Israel, the Elders – a group of former world leaders founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007 and currently led by former Irish president Mary Robinson – called upon the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to establish his opposition to the annexation. Johnson stated that “As a life-long friend, admirer and supporter of Israel, I am fearful that these proposals will fail in their objective of securing Israel’s borders and will be contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests,” and “I profoundly hope that annexation does not go ahead. If it does, the UK will not recognise any changes to the 1967 lines, except those agreed between both parties,” demonstrating his lack of support for the annexation. The fact that such an ensemble of politically influential figures have come out in opposition to the annexation serves as a warning to Israel with how their political position may slip as a result of this affront to the international community, which would clearly have a negative impact on Israel and the relations that it has painstakingly attempted to construct and serves to delegitimise the annexation as a result of a lack of global support.
Johnson’s statement that the annexation is “contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests” can be construed as being a reference to the fact that it would destroy any possibility of a two-state system being implemented in the region. The idea of a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is essentially the notion that there should be two independent states of Israel and Palestine and was popularised by the UN in 1974 when it called for “two States, Israel and Palestine … side by side within secure and recognized borders”  . The annexation of the West Bank would effectively destroy any lingering hope that a two-state system would be able to be established as it negates the idea that the two states would be able to neighbour each other in peaceful harmony as a result of Israel’s consistent desire to obtain more land at the expense of the Palestinians. This has led to speculation, claiming that it will cause for the movement for demanding equal rights among current and future generations of the Palestinian populace to intensify within the single state. As a result of studying Israel’s extensive track record of ignoring the pleas of the Palestinian people   , it is not difficult to imagine that these calls for improved rights would be quelled, causing Israel to lose even more support internationally, isolating it further. Although the annexation would enable the Israelis to expand their territories in the short term, in the long term it will enable the Palestinians to concentrate their energies and force on pushing for improved rights and living conditions (as opposed to the current split between rights and land) which would in turn increase the pressure on the Israeli government in the wake of the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. In short, whilst it may lead Netanyahu to glory in the meantime as a champion for Israeli nationalism, it will worsen the troubles plaguing the flashpoint region in future.
Since Israel was first established as a state in 1948, many wars have been fought with its surrounding Arab states. It has taken decades for Israel to cultivate the uneasy relations that Israel has been able to establish with Jordan and the other Arab countries in the Gulf, and the annexation would all but crumble these ties as the king of Jordan warns of a “massive conflict” if Israel is to go ahead with the annexation of the West Bank. If international pressure from within the US, European nations and the Arabic nations builds to a substantial enough level that it would begin to threaten Israel’s teetering position on the world stage, it is fair to say that the negatives would begin to far outweigh the positives for the Israeli nationalists and could cause for the annexation to be called off.
The annexation has not only affronted external groups: Jewish groups are calling for the withholding of US military aid to Israel if they decide to go ahead with the annexation, as well as referring to the annexation as “Netanyahu’s recklessness”. Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has stated that lawmakers are free to publically criticise and condemn Israel’s decision to annex the West Bank. If there is a lack of support for the annexation by the Jewish community, and even Zionists, internationally, then there is hope that enough public outcry can be amassed to force Netanyahu’s hand.
If the denial of basic human rights for the Palestinian people, the positions of opposition taken by influential world leaders, and the outcry amongst the public – even from within the Jewish community itself – is not yet enough to convince you of how apathetic and fallacious the decision to annex the West Bank is on behalf of the Israeli government, then I implore you to recall that this act in and of itself is a direct violation of international law. Regardless of the humanitarian crisis it may raise, and setting aside the politics and economics, this decision is fundamentally illegal. Israel has shown their disregard for international law for too long, and it is time that they are held accountable for their injustices against the Palestinian people. We cannot allow Israel to be above the law.
If reading this article has left you equal parts despondent and enflamed by the actions of President Netanyahu, then I urge you to take action by signing these petitions below!
- Call for the UK government to formally recognise the State of Palestine
- Palestine Solidarity Campaign
- Google, Put Palestine On Your Maps
- Take a Stand for Palestine
Check Out The GrassRoute Petition Feed here
As much as I would have loved to be able to speak about the origins of the state of Israel following the Balfour Declaration, the Sykes-Picot agreement and so on, it is an extremely long and complicated matter that I just would not have been able to fit into this article! If you would like to find out more about the conception of Israel and how the land was handled, then I would strongly recommend that you read this relatively short article as well as watch this short YouTube video.
Written by Umran Tuglu