Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, undeterred by the international condemnation, appears determined to carry out his pledge to begin annexing parts of the occupied West Bank on July 1, the planned starting point for a Cabinet debate on the issue.
His vision of redrawing the map of the Holy Land, in line with President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan, has been welcomed by Israel’s religious and nationalist right wing and condemned by the Palestinians and the international community. But with opponents offering little more than condemnations, there seems little to prevent Netanyahu from embarking on a plan that could permanently alter the Mideast landscape.
The international community has invested billions of dollars in promoting a two-state solution since the interim Oslo peace accords of the 1990s. The U.N. secretary-general, the European Union and leading Arab countries have all said Israeli annexation would violate international law and greatly undermine the prospects for Palestinian independence. Turkey has also called on the international community to take a stand against Israel's plan to annex the West Bank, underscoring the ongoing violations of the rights of the people of Palestine and the deepening policy of occupation and oppression.
Israel and the U.S. appear to be banking on the international community’s poor record of translating rhetoric into concrete action. Thanks to the U.S. veto over U.N. Security Council decisions, international sanctions appear to be out of the question. Divisions within the EU make concerted European reaction unlikely as well. Individual countries might seek to impose limited sanctions against Israel, and the International Criminal Court in the Hague could take annexation into account as it weighs whether to launch a war crimes investigation into Israeli policies.
The Palestinians seek the entire West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state and believe the Trump plan would deliver a fatal blow to their fading hopes of statehood. Among the plan’s components: The Palestinians would only have limited autonomy in a fraction of territory they seek. Isolated Israeli settlements deep inside Palestinian territory would remain intact, and the Israeli military would retain overall security control over the Palestinian entity.
U.S. officials are in Israel as part of the White House's efforts to win consensus within its government for annexation as envisioned in an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan announced by President Donald Trump in January. The proposal calls for Israeli sovereignty over about 30% of the West Bank – land on which Israel has built settlements for decades – as well as the creation of a Palestinian state under strict conditions.
The Palestinians are prepared to renew long-stalled peace talks with Israel and to agree to "minor" territorial concessions, according to a counterproposal to a contentious U.S. plan. A Palestinian Authority text sent to the international peacemaking Quartet and seen Monday by AFP, says the Palestinians are "ready to resume direct bilateral negotiations where they stopped" in 2014.
An Israeli minister played down on Tuesday the likelihood of major moves to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank on July 1. Zeev Elkin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, said Israel still did not have the green light it seeks from Washington to begin extending its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank, territory Palestinians seek for a state.
Netanyahu and his main coalition government partner, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, are at odds over annexation, which the right-wing prime minister has promoted. In an interview with the YNet news site on Tuesday, Gantz repeated his call for Israel to try to enlist Palestinian and international support for the Trump plan before proceeding with a unilateral annexation move.
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