Now that Israel has an actual Government–for however long it will last—the one non-medical/health issue which it may consider during its first six months under the coalition agreement is the matter of Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank. One persistent question, nevertheless, continues to emerge for Israelis as well as Jews throughout the world, why official annexation is even necessary. In fact, Israel is already ensconced in all the proposed areas. Furthermore, from an ethical and moral perspective this move clearly is not only superfluous and unnecessary but wrong.
While Israel’s claim to the West Bank is clearly based on legitimate, historical, and legal grounds, at this time in Israel’s history annexation makes no sense. The sole rationale for this move is that it is being done for cynical political reasons as well as due to a misguided notion that Israel will be greatly challenged if it does not follow the bidding of Donald Trump.
One of the remarkable and at the same time embarrassing factors in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s continued political life is his persistent, perceived need to obtain the political acquiescence of American political leaders. Whether his end-run about President Obama to House Speaker John Boehner on the Iran deal or his consistent kowtowing to President Trump, Netanyahu has undermined Israel’s continued ability to function as a separate sovereign state. Annexation now could create an unnecessarily serious problem, should Trump not be re-elected this fall.
The underlying difficulty in Netanyahu’s reported position on annexation is that is totally unnecessary. Israel already has virtual sovereignty over the proposed areas under consideration in both Judea and Samaria. For legitimate security reasons parts of the Jordan Valley bordering Jordan still constitutes a serious part of Israel’s defense strategy. As for the areas adjacent and even contiguous to Jerusalem, they have been part of almost every peace plan proposal since Oslo.
In addition, Israel’s current military position and its geopolitical stature in many sectors of the Arab world has never been higher and more respected. Even if this recognition of Israel’s dominance is not entirely motivated by a deep affection for the Jewish State, rather there appears to be a genuine, mutual interest here between Israel and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and most of the Gulf States. It is difficult to explain why Israel would even consider jeopardizing these relationships. In addition, the inevitable turmoil which will ensue at when Mahmoud Abbas is no longer on the scene in Ramallah, could well be triggered immediately by an Israeli move on annexation.
Perhaps the only saving grace in Netanyahu’s willingness to move ahead on annexation is that he may be acting to placate President Trump and the Israel right wing. It could well be that the Bibi will play the annexation card and do nothing, certainly not before November. At that time, Netanyahu could offer to put annexation on the back burner as a move to solidify a warm relationship with a new Democratic Administration in Washington. (Joe Biden has already indicated his own lack of support for annexation.) At the same time, Bibi also might ingratiate himself with some countries in Europe who have already threatened to consider an economic boycott should Israel proceed with annexation.