On September 10, 2019, a week before the Israeli elections, Netanyahu announced his intent to annex the Jordan Valley and the Israeli settlements, which together comprise approximately 30% of the West Bank. Moreover, with the US government seemingly on the verge of officially endorsing the plan, and with the EU showing little push back, it is clearer than ever before that no major power is standing with the Palestinians against illegal, official annexation by Israel.
So, one may wonder, what can the Palestinians, and their leadership in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA), do? To answer those questions, several facts must be addressed first.
As part of the Oslo Accords, the PA was established in 1994 to serve as a 5-year acting government for the Palestinians before a fully independent Palestinian State based on the borders between 1948 and 1967 could be established. Clearly, that is not what happened. Nearly three decades later, the situation on the ground has not changed – and has in fact gotten worse. The Israeli government, perpetually drifting further to the extreme far-right since the Accords were signed, has unrelentingly continued its consolidation of the occupation by building settlements, confiscating lands, and forcibly concentrating Palestinians into enclaves with suffocating density and living conditions.
Still, for over two decades the PA still had hope for an agreement based on the 1967 borders. However, with Israel planning to annex 30% of the West Bank – and with no real opposition posed by the international community – it is becoming clearer that no agreement will be reached between Israel and the PA.
The other problem for the Palestinian Authority is that it appears to have lost its legitimacy with the Palestinian people, who appear to have lost trust in its leadership under Mahmoud Abbas. In a public opinion poll published in early 2019 by the Aman Coalition, a Palestinian corruption monitor, 91 percent of Palestinians surveyed said they do not trust the PA. Such vast distrust in the PA may come as surprising; however, given recent events on the ground, it is clear why there is such distrust in the PA.
One of the primary criticisms of Palestinians towards the PA is the rampant corruption that has plagued it ever since Abbas took power, with funds being mishandled on numerous occasions for various different projects. Another factor that could have led to such disgust in the PA by Palestinians is its crackdown on recent anti-Abbas protests, and its seemingly increasing cooperation with Israeli military forces. In a moment which truly showed the extent to which Palestinian despise the PA, less than 200 people attended a protest organized by the PA against annexation, clearly indicating that Palestinians in the West Bank do not view the PA as their leader and representative in the struggle for justice.
In addition to Palestinians having little to no faith in the PA, the international community has been hesitant to back the PA – even silent at times. Germany, the de facto leader of the EU, has stated that annexation will harm Israel’s relationship, but will not lead to serious action on the part of Berlin such as imposing sanctions. Both Germany and France have expressed verbal condemnation against annexation, but are yet to take any form of meaningful action to pressure Israel.
Therefore, given the fact that the international community is either silent with regards to annexation or complicity with it, and that the PA has lost its trust within the Palestinian community, there is little – and quite possibly nothing – Abbas can do to stop annexation. The PA lacks any strong means to pressure Israel. Aside from verbal condemnation and withdrawal from cooperation agreements with Israel (which are really meaningless in terms of their ability to influence Israel’s decision), the PA is completely powerless.
Hence, one of the best chances to stop annexation is through opposition from within Israel led by the Joint List, that can truly bring it to a halt. It has already been addressing the issue of annexation since it first came up in the previous elections cycles. In recent days, Joint List MK Aida Touma of the Hadash party wrote a letter, signed by the other 14 Joint List members, to Congress, urging Democratic members to oppose annexation. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading the effort in Congress by spearheading a letter conditioning aid to Israel should it move forward with annexation – the letter has been signed by over a dozen Congress members already. At the same time, the Joint List has urged the EU to cut ties with Israel if it fails to renounce annexation, while simultaneously urging British political parties to oppose the move. Domestically, it has been organizing and participating in protests opposing and condemning annexation, in addition to challenging it in the Knesset.
The Joint List and Palestinian citizens of Israel, who know exactly what living as second class citizens is like, can lead a national solidarity movement along with other minorities in Israel (such as the Ethiopian community) to pressure not only Netanyahu’s government to halt its annexation plan, but also the international community to take meaningful action against annexation.