Since the declaration that Israel would begin forwarding its initiative to annex the West Bank, which is set to begin in the coming days, weeks or months, Arab reactionary governments have voiced their discontent with the move. But is this going to mean a shift away from normalisation with Israel and towards to Palestinian cause, or are the statements made simply empty words from corrupted regimes?
The planned annexation – in law – of the West Bank, or as Israel calls it “applying Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria”, is in obvious violation of the UN Charter and hence has received no support from any government outside of the Israeli regime itself and the Trump administration.
Threats have been issued from a number of governments, including the strongest coming from Belgium, which threatens possible sanctions in response to Israeli annexation of West Bank territory. There is of course the wider question of which governments around the world will truly act and if so, how far will they go. But this is perhaps less significant of a question, than what have they been doing since 1967 when the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip began?
When we discuss the issue of annexation, it is often done in a bubble. That which wishes to isolate the question of annexation to the possible immediate future. However, this framing of the question of annexation is wholly disingenuous, or at best mistakenly misleading. Annexation in a literal sense has been ongoing in the West Bank and is continuing as you read this article.
When people speak of the occupation of the West Bank, they do so in a sense that the situation there is intended – by the occupier – to be temporary. That is what an occupation is, a temporarily imposed situation, however an occupation is a situation imposed through military force which is intended to be permanent. Israel has never, since the end of the June 1967 war, recognised a Palestinian State within its internationally recognised borders, namely the West Bank and Gaza, constituting 22% of historical Palestine.
With every new Israeli illegal settler coloniser that moves into the West Bank and with every new Israeli settlement unit and outpost, Israel is physically annexing more Palestinian land. In the past there used to be some ambiguity surrounding the question of Israeli withdrawal from the settlements, at least amongst international observers, however this notion is widely understood to no longer be a possibility if Israel is not forced to withdraw.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that he will never accept a Palestinian State and is completely opposed to the idea of withdrawing a single illegal settler. But it’s not only Netanyahu’s Right-Wing Likud Party that thinks this way, there is little to no opposition to land annexation and the notion of settler withdrawal from across the Israeli political board. The current Israeli government is in reality a good representation of Israel’s politics today, as it includes the Benny Gantz led Kahol-Lavan Party as well as even the so-called Left-Wing Israeli Labour Party.
The Arab Regimes, in reality, know that no Israeli government in the past decades has truly strived for a viable Two-State solution. If they didn’t catch onto it before the fact, the outright rejection of the ‘Arab Peace Initiative’ was a tell all sign that Israel was not seeking any Palestinian State. The initiative went beyond what the Arab countries were legally obliged to commit to, given a resolution to the conflict coming to fruition, and was first endorsed by the Arab League unanimously in 2002, then again in 2007 and again in 2017.
But instead of even pursuing what many saw as a weak initiative, which would have underachieved for basic Palestinian human rights, the likes of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Egypt and others have normalised with Israel without the precondition of a Palestinian State.
The normalisation however, is not the only betrayal of the Palestinians by the Arab Regimes. In 1980 Israel officially annexed East Jerusalem, this included the Old City of Jerusalem and with it the Al-Aqsa compound. In reaction to this, for all this time there has been no fight to reinstate the legally recognised status of East Jerusalem.
Jordan and Egypt both signed Peace Treaties with Israel and have normalised trade relations with Israel. Both Jordan and Egypt currently aid Israel in its oppression of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
During the large-scale massacres against the Gaza Strip in 2008/9, 2012 and 2014, the Arab Regimes did nothing as the world watched Israel massacre thousands of innocent Palestinians.
In December of 2017, US President Donald Trump announced the Capital of Israel as being Jerusalem, later moving the US embassy to Jerusalem in 2018. In December 2017 the Arab Regimes did nothing at all to help the Palestinian people and even on the May 14, 2018, when Israel massacred roughly 60 innocent Palestinian non-violent demonstrators in Gaza, whilst the US was opening its Embassy in Jerusalem, the Arab Regimes didn’t even lift a finger.
The Jordan Valley and Northern Dead Sea Areas, which constitutes roughly 30% of the West Bank, are under threat of Israeli official annexation. But even on this front the Arab Regimes have historically always let the Palestinians down in the Jordan Valley. For one, the Northern Dead Sea area is inaccessible for Palestinians as the entire area is surrounded by illegal Israeli Settlements. On top of this, Israel has already been ethnically cleansing Palestinians from the Jordan Valley for the past three decades.
Historically the same inaction has been the case when Israel caused mass exodus in the Jordan Valley area. In 1968 Israeli artillery and airstrikes laid waste to the Jordan Valley, ethnically cleansing 100,000 Palestinians from the area, following a number of attacks against the Israeli Occupation forces by Palestinian guerilla groups. In 1969, Israel even extended its fire into Jordanian territory reaching the outskirts of Irbid and Salt. The Jordanian response was to escalate tensions with Palestinian Guerilla groups, instead of responding to Israel and protecting the Palestinian people.
These historical examples may seem anecdotal to some, but to Palestinians who have lived through these various let downs from the Arab Regimes, has led to a feeling of disbelief in them.
Out of the recent statements condemning Israel’s planned annexation, King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has perhaps offered the strongest worded response. Jordan’s King claims that if Israel goes ahead with annexation it will “lead to massive conflict” with the Hashemite Kingdom. However, understandably, the Palestinian people are not placing their hopes in any Jordanian response which will truly defend them from annexation.
The only promised resistance to the annexation plan is going to come from Palestinians inside of the West Bank itself and from the armed resistance movements inside the Gaza Strip. Outside of that, there is a possibility that Hezbollah in Lebanon may act against Israel and a smaller chance that Iranian backed groups may attack the Israeli Occupied Golan Heights.
As for Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE, the Lebanese Government and the likes, it seems as if there lack of care for the Palestinian people and Palestinian cause, died long ago.