Israeli annexation of the West Bank is already underway. International pressure is having little effect. Only Trump can stop Netanyahu, and he has shown no inclination to do so. David Friedman has a step on Jared Kushner in the Oval Office, and Friedman is a rightwing Israeli politician not an ambassador. Netanyahu’s partners who think they can stop it are political rookies. Annexation will isolate Israel internationally and likely spark an intifada or even war from Palestinians who recognize the depth of the world’s betrayal.
These points were made by Israeli journalist Alex Fishman of Ynet speaking in a webinar to the pro-Israel organization the Israel Policy Forum two days ago. Let’s go through his points (though I must establish that the whole purpose of the talk was to describe the effect of annexation on Israel’s security, with scarcely a word about Palestinian human rights. The Israel lobby doesn’t care about Palestinians, even as the talk begins with a prayer for racial justice in the U.S.).
1. “We are in the middle of the process of annexation. The snowball has started to run,” Fishman says. Annexation isn’t happening in July, it’s happening now. This is why so many foreign ministers are reaching out. “It is not a matter of theory any more.” Netanyahu “climbed to the top of the mountain,” and it is very difficult for him to climb down.
Last week Israeli military caused a fire in the Jordan valley, destroying 2000 acres of Palestinian land, and Fishman echoed the Palestinian view that the fire is part of the process of seizing land. “The Palestinians truly believe that we are in the middle of this [annexation] process.”
2. Netanyahu’s political partners Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi oppose the annexation policy but they are deluded. They believe they can “maneuver” Netanyahu by talking to Jordan and the Palestinians and the United States.
“They think they have people surrounding Trump… They believe that Kushner is working with them and that Kushner will save them from David Friedman. No– Kushner will save first of all the king of Saudi, save the business of his family first of all. We are talking about rookies in politics. Netanyahu can turn them on his finger.” Gantz and Ashkenazi are military professionals who never studied ideology or politics or policy making and they are hopelessly outmatched.
3. David Friedman the ambassador and settler champion has the greatest influence in Washington, according to rumors, Fishman said. “We know that Friedman is very much pro annexation. He is representing the Israeli right wing. He is not an ambassador, he is an Israeli politician with a title. [Obama’s ambassador to Israel] Danny Shapiro — you know how often he was sitting with four eyes with his president, once, twice? You know how many times Mr. Friedman sits in four eyes with Trump? More than his assistants. He’s his adviser, he’s not an ambassador. His influence is much greater than other people.”
4. Annexation is a huge risk to Israel’s international status. Germany and France are trying to warn Israel, but Netanyahu is brushing that off. “We are not taking them seriously and we will pay for it.”
Netanyahu has “shaken two anchors” of Israeli security, the peace with Jordan and political support in the U.S. “We are losing the support of the liberal sector of the Jews in the States, we are losing the Democrats…
“We are talking about … a deep change in the status quo, a deep change of Israeli position in the world, a deep change after the election in the States towards Israel. We are losing the Democrats, we are losing the bipartisan that is so important to Israeli defense, to Israeli existence. We are losing the normal American,” Fishman said.
Biden needs to speak out now, Fishman said. “He needs to raise his voice and to say clear and loud, that there will be a price for annexation.”
5. No one knows how much territory Israel will be annexing. It is a “mystery” whether it is 30 percent of the West Bank in the Trump plan, or “just” major settlement blocs, Netanyahu is not showing his cards. Trump’s plan calls for Israel giving up 30 percent of the Negev desert to Palestine, and Netanyahu will never do that. The areas mentioned for annexation include a lot of private Palestinian land that Israel is “going to confiscate.”
6. Even a small annexation may bring a violent response. “I don’t believe it will be peaceful because the anger among the Palestinians is waiting only for only a small match to kindle it,” Fishman said. “The tension on the streets, you can see the petroleum smell, that everything will blow up in a minute. They understand this is the end of the story of the two state solution. They understand it. Everybody understands it…
“That we will get through it quietly, there is no chance.”
It might also be the end of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and the potential exists for the PA’s armed, 60,000 security force to mobilize against Israel in a “war.”
Not to mention further economic problems on the West Bank. Annexation will strangle business in the West Bank and spur a crisis that will fuel militant response in the streets.
7. Israeli politics are rightwing, so the Knesset will rubber stamp annexation. “If there will be an annexation it will be for life.” A future Knesset would need 80 seats to overturn annexation, and that will never happen.
8. Israelis have forgotten the Second Intifada, when there were over 1,000 Israeli deaths, and nearly 5,000 Palestinians were killed, and believe in the idea of managed conflict. “We always build on the passiveness of the Palestinians that get tired of the riots. But it’s not true. There is a new generation… they are different from their parents, they are much more active and militant than their parents.”
Further evidence that Israel is moving ahead with annexation comes from the report that even AIPAC is allowing US politicians to speak out against the policy, surely out of fear of what many warn will be the loss of the Democratic Party’s blind support for Israel if annexation goes through.
And Evan Gottesman of Israel Policy Forum says that Netanyahu had several exit ramps from annexation, but all signs are that he pushing forward. For instance, he is assuring rightwing settlers who oppose annexation as a step toward creating a small Palestinian state, that the state in the Trump plan is not a real state, so don’t worry.
Bibi [Netanyahu] is continuing to try to sell the Trump plan on the settlement movement’s unconvinced leaders. During a meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin reminded settler officials that the American proposal does not require a construction freeze in the settlements. The prime minister, who seems to understand the Trump plan better than his counterparts in the White House do, even zeroed in on the settlers’ central objection: the creation of a Palestinian state. What the Trump administration calls a state, Netanyahu pointed out, hardly merits the label, given its lack of control over its own borders, among other reasons (contradicting his own government’s messaging to Americans, including Democratic lawmakers).