Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Major decisions that we take often boil down to doing what is smart vs. doing what is right.
In the current political situation in Israel, Israel would be within its rights to apply sovereignty/annex areas of the West Bank / Judea/Samaria which would fall under Israeli authority in any future peace plan. Pick your reason: Israel won the land in a defensive war against a country (Jordan) which has given up all claim to it. The last international law decision on it was by the League of Nations which assigned only Jewish national rights in the area. The Palestinians have rejected peace offers and talks again and again for almost a century, not to mention the fact that they have been keeping their end of the agreement over the years to not take unilateral actions. Even recently, just at the threat of this Israeli move they claimed (for the 19th time I believe) that they were calling all agreements with Israel null and void.
Two major questions though come to mind. Is it smart to do it and is it necessary to do it now? The first one is highly debatable. The "do it now'" thought is due to the upcoming elections in the US and the thought that "the Trump plan" might be out the window in November (if it ever was in play). Though between the current civil unrest and covid crisis in the US, the Middle East is not high on the US President's agenda and it seems his support for unilateral Israeli action has been waning.
Why is Netanyahu considering this move? Here is an excellent look at it from the exceptional Israeli political commentator Haviv Rettig Gur: https://www.timesofisrael.com/for-netanyahu-despite-mounting-opposition-annexation-is-already-paying-off/
A very mainstream Israeli take on the situation can be found here by one of Israel's top thinkers and writers, Yossi Klein HaLevi: https://www.wsj.com/articles/annexation-would-be-a-mistakeand-a-tragedy-11592264095
One of the big drawbacks to the plan is its potential affects not only on the peace treaty with Jordan - a staple of Israeli security since 1994 but a weak country with a population that is primarily Palestinian - but its potential to derail Israeli inroads with the Gulf States. Over the
last number of years, Israel has had a not so secret burgeoning love affair with countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia due to their common distaste for Iran's hegemonic desires in the region. The idea that normalization would only occur when a peace treaty with the Palestinians was signed has fallen to the wayside. But the talk of changing the status of some of the territories (disputed/occupied/liberated - you pick) threaten that progress. Both sides of that coin are clearly on display here - the first-ever column in Hebrew in an Israeli newspaper (analysis here is in English, no worries) by a senior Gulf official: https://www.timesofisrael.com/uae-diplomats-historic-op-ed-shows-normalization-can-thrive-in-the-status-quo/
Finally, we should note that while "annexation" is the word thrown around, in reality what it seems that Israel will do - if it does anything at all - is to extend Israeli law/sovereignty to certain areas which is not the same thing as annexation. Israel did the former with the Golan Heights and the latter with East Jerusalem.
Want to learn more about all of these various territories? Come to Israel on a tour with your Israel tour guide and we can discuss geopolitics in person.
Either way, it looks like we will all find out on July 1 from PM Netanyahu if this was just election promises, political maneuvering/manipulation, a legacy bid or just trying to deflect attention from his corruption trial. Stay tuned.
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