Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

The very idea of Palestine is under threat

Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to annex one quarter of the West Bank if he is re-elected

Benjamin Netanyahu shows a map of the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements. Bloomberg
Benjamin Netanyahu shows a map of the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements. Bloomberg

Now more than ever before, the idea of a Palestinian sovereign state is under threat and it is at risk of disappearing altogether.

The Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is expanding as new settlements are announced. The Gaza Strip continues to cut off from the world. And the occupation is also being normalised by the current US administration, which has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, ignoring the fact that Palestinians sought East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, and that it is still occupied.

But it could be that the worse has yet to come. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to take it one step further. Mr Netanyahu has pledged to annex the Jordan Valley, which makes up one quarter of the West Bank, exposing himself as a man prepared to sacrifice the dreams of all those yearning for peace – and with the rightful claim of Palestinians for their own state – on the altar of his own ambition.

This cynical attempt to woo right-wing Israeli voters is not unprecedented. In April, shortly before the previous election in which he failed to win sufficient votes to form a government, he suggested he would annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.

For years, Israel has allowed hundreds of thousands of illegal Israeli settlers to reside in the West Bank, paving the way for such a move which, if carried through, would destroy all hope of a two-state solution.

The Jordan Valley, occupied by some 11,000 Israeli settlers, is also home to 65,000 Palestinians. Such is Mr Netanyahu’s contempt for them that he didn’t think it necessary to consult the Palestinian Authority before dropping his announcement.

That he did so on the same week as the 26th anniversary of the Oslo Accords says much about his regard for the entire peace process.

The League of Arab States has condemned the move as irresponsible and dangerous. In a tweet, Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi said that Mr Netanyahu’s actions amounted to “killing all chances for peace for electoral purposes”. In a statement, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said this announcement was a dangerous escalation, violating international laws, charters, and resolutions.

Mr Netanyahu is prepared to sacrifice the dreams of all those yearning for peace – and the rightful claim of Palestinians to their own state – on the altar of his ambition

It is also clear that, with Mr Trump facing an election next year, Mr Netanyahu, in referring to his annexation plan as a historic chance "that we may not have again”, senses that a window of opportunity might be closing on his nefarious ambitions.

The Trump administration’s long-awaited “deal of the century” is due to be released after Israel’s election. Whatever it contains, if the US is serious about bringing stability to the region it cannot allow Mr Netanyahu to carry through his threat of annexation.

Likewise, when the leaders of the world gather at the United Nations in New York later this month, Israel’s proposed illegal land grab must not go unchallenged.

By chance, Israel’s general election takes place on the same day that the 74th session of the General Assembly of the UN begins. If Mr Netanyahu’s iniquitous inducement has proved sufficient to return him to power, the UN must condemn annexation as vehemently as earlier this year it rejected Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights. But it must also look to actions. not just words.

If the world fails to resist Mr Netanyahu’s abuse of international law, it will be complicit not only in the shattering of hopes for peace in the region, but also in the death of the very idea of Palestine.

Updated: September 11, 2019 07:25 PM

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