Israel’s Attorney General inclined to back annexation pre-election

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit (Reuters)

Middle East Monitor  /  January 30, 2020

Israeli attorney general Avichai Mendelblit “seems to be leaning toward” approving annexation of West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley even before the 2 March election, “if the Knesset supports the measure”, reported Haaretz.

According to the paper, “Mendelblit has received neither a formal request to consider the matter, nor a detailed proposal.”

The attorney general will have to decide whether a step such as annexation can be taken by a transitional government. On Tuesday, Mendelblit said he did not rule it, commenting: “Such things have happened before, diplomatic agreements a month or so before an election.”

“Among the considerations that Mendelblit can be expected to weigh are the specific body that will make the decision, the degree of public support for it, the government’s justification for carrying out the move now, the position of the national security council in regard to the matter’s urgency, and the future status of the Palestinians living in the areas marked for annexation,” Haaretz explained.

Since the press conference on Tuesday, when US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a “peace plan” prepared by the White House, there has been speculation about when, and how, Israel might annex West Bank territory and settlements.

One option is for the Israeli cabinet to approve such a measure, as well as a Knesset vote in the plenum. Israeli ministers have hinted that formal annexation requires technical preparations and thus may not be as imminent as was claimed in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s events.

According to Haaretz, “since the transitional government does not have the confidence of the Knesset, the cabinet’s approval would not be enough for the attorney general to approve [annexation]”, but “nor would a military order, which is considered an administrative measure only.”

“The attorney general would view legislative passage of the measure as having legal validity, and would likely persuade him to defend it in the High Court of Justice in the event of a challenge.”