Netanyahu's Annexation Plan is a Sham
June 28, 2020
Map of Netanyahu's Annexation Plan of Palestinian Jordan Valley
Apartheid has been decades in the making
Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean that Israel’s proposed annexation
of the Jordan Valley won’t further dispossess Palestinians. Israel will
be stealing 30 percent of the land set aside for a Palestinian state
under previous, failed peace proposals, causing further suffering to
But this particular annexation proposal, to which
the new Israeli government agreed in its coalition deal, is a red
herring - a distraction from the systemic nature of Israel’s
dispossession of Palestinians. It permits liberal Zionists and the
international community to focus their attention on undoing this
particular evil, relieving them of responsibility for the entire
apartheid system Israel has developed, both inside and outside the green
Statements from British Jewish leaders, US Congress members, European
Union officials and human rights experts have warned of the consequences
of annexation. They have targeted the soft, “moderate” underbelly of the
governing coalition, Blue and White MKs, telling them how badly the
world would look upon Israel if this proposal was enacted.
all of this liberal whining avoids a far greater evil: a
Judeo-supremacist regime built on religious intolerance and ethnic
The present Israeli regime has as much, or more, in
common with Iran's Islamic republic, Saudi Arabia's Islamic
protectorate, or the Afghan Taliban than it does with western democracy
The problem with the Israeli state is not one particular policy, no
matter how odious. It goes back to the very foundations of the state and
the thinking of its founders, foremost among them David Ben-Gurion.
While there were some voices among early Zionist leaders who sought
integration, or at least peaceful coexistence with their Palestinian
neighbours, Ben-Gurion was a maximalist who espoused ethnic cleansing in
his diaries and letters well before he founded the state.
sine qua non of statehood for him was a Jewish majority and Jewish
superiority. “Arabs” might remain inside the new nation’s borders, but
only if they acquiesced to their diminished status.
Ben-Gurion feared the Palestinian presence so much that he and the
Palmach militia organised and conducted Plan Dalet, which resulted in
the Nakba - the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians in conjunction with
the 1948 founding of Israel.
Palestinian communities that
survived the war remained under martial law for two decades, though they
posed no security threat.
Boiling the frog
As an American Jew, I was raised on liberal Zionism. I was taught
from an early age that Israel was a Jewish and democratic state. I was
taught to be proud of the mutual coexistence of those two terms. But the
religious component of Israeli identity, as it has come to be defined,
precludes democracy; they cannot coexist. It took me decades to realise
While it would be ill-advised to attempt to eliminate or
suppress religion in a truly democratic state of Israel-Palestine,
religion must be separated from the political realm if this state is
ever to become normalised.
The religions of Israel’s Jewish and
Palestinian citizens will remain critical to them and their identities.
If practised appropriately, they will enrich the fabric of the state
without prejudicing one religious or ethnic group over another. But the
present Israeli regime has as much, or more, in common with Iran’s
Islamic republic, Saudi Arabia’s Islamic protectorate, or the Afghan
Taliban than it does with western democracy.
One of the clever
elements of Zionist expansionism is to pursue its goals gradually,
rather than all at once. The poor frog doesn’t realise that he’s being
boiled in the pot until it’s too late, because the flame raises the
temperature gradually and almost imperceptibly.
has already backed off his original proposal of annexing the entire
Jordan Valley. He is now entertaining “annexation-lite”, absorbing the
major settlement enclaves of Ariel, Maaleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, while
leaving the remaining territory unannexed. This hides the fact that once
these blocs become part of Israel, the surrounding territory is
Palestinian in name only; whatever is left will be hemmed in by Israeli
fences, roads and infrastructure. And Israel could, at a later date,
annex the rest.
In a recent Middle East Eye webinar, Professor Rashid Khalidi
described annexation as “largely a red herring”, noting that it has been
ongoing since 1967 in various ways, with Israeli law already applying
throughout the occupied territories.
“We have to be thinking in
broader terms than the narrow diplomatic language that’s been used.
Israel has been annexing and creating a one-state reality since 1967.
This [current annexation plan] is just a tiny step in the process,”
Khalidi said, noting that Netanyahu’s more limited proposal regarding
the three settlement enclaves amounts to a “charade”.
be talking in much more fundamental terms about the systemic structural
problems that are going to have to be addressed if this problem is to be
resolved on a just and equitable basis,” he said.
If there is
any silver lining in the annexation plan, it is that liberal Zionists,
who once denounced the boycott movement and anyone labeling Israel as an
apartheid state, have been forced to reckon with the failure of their
South African anti-apartheid campaigner Benjamin Pogrund,
who has spent decades fighting the notion that Israel is an apartheid
state, recently said in an interview: “If we annex the Jordan Valley and
the settlement areas, we are apartheid. Full stop. There’s no question
South Africa’s bantustans “were simply a more refined
form of apartheid to mask what it really was”, Pogrund added, noting
that the consequences of Israel’s planned annexation “will obviously be
extremely grave. Friends of ours in the world will not be able to defend
Cracks and divides
Similarly, the pro-Israel German party
Die Linke has also called for sanctioning Israel if it goes forward with
this plan. “Should the Israeli government resolve to carry out the
annexation, Die Linke will advocate for the suspension of the EU-Israel
Association Agreement,” it said in a statement.
This EU protocol
is important not only because it offers Israel tariff-free trade and
privileges of member states, but also because of the status it confers
on Israel, both in Europe and around the world. To lose these privileges
would be an economic and political blow.
The party’s statement,
as noted by journalist Ali Abunimah, comes close to abandoning a
two-state solution, which is at the very heart of the liberal Zionism
Die Linke upholds: “In the face of the Israeli government’s seeming
rejection of a just two-state solution, in which citizens from both
sides would live with equal rights, Die Linke calls for equal civil
rights for Palestinians and Israelis,” the party stated.
Linke, the following principle holds everywhere and at all times: all
inhabitants of every country should enjoy equal rights - irrespective of
their religion, language or ethnic group.”
It’s important not to
exaggerate the significance of these changes. They certainly mark a
shift in the ranks of Israel’s liberal advocates. There is also no doubt
about the tectonic shifts in US politics on Israel/Palestine, which have
considerably widened discourse. But as we’ve seen in the past, just as
tectonic plates can crack and divide, geological forces can drive them
back together again.
- Richard Silverstein
writes the Tikun Olam blog, devoted to exposing the excesses of the
Israeli national security state. His work has appeared in Haaretz, the
Forward, the Seattle Times and the Los Angeles Times. His article
appeared in the Middle East Eye.
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