Middle East Monitor / March 15, 2023
Israeli authorities’ use of the term “Judea and Samaria governorate” in official documents to refer to the occupied West Bank has heightened existing concerns that the occupation state is working towards “silently” annexing the Palestinian territory.
A report by Arab News today cited Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs, Ismat Mansour, who revealed that Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has implemented plans to annex the West Bank, and in doing so has bypassed legal and political obstacles, including external pressures.
Mansour said that should Israel annex the West Bank, it might not affect the lives of three million Palestinians, but would certainly affect the Palestinian Authority (PA) politically and legally, as the PA remains committed to a two-state solution. Annexation will make the West Bank non-negotiable and subject to Israeli law, he explained.
Last month, Smotrich tweeted that “the citizens of Judea and Samaria will no longer be second-class citizens under a military government,” adding that “At the same time, we will act with great determination to stop the illegal Arab takeover of the open territories in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territory.”
While the Israeli military has been using “Judea and Samaria Division” as a regional division in the Israeli Central Command for the West Bank since 1988, the term is being gradually normalized in civilian use. “Palestinian drivers say that tickets issued by Israeli traffic police when they travel between Palestinian cities bear the logo of ’the Judea and Samaria governorate’, while the signs of some roads and places have been changed to carry the new name,” the report noted.
Israel’s use of the term “Judea and Samaria” is not recognized by the international community. The UN and most countries, including the US, refer to the area as the “occupied Palestinian territories.” Palestinians view the use of “Judea and Samaria” as a denial of their historical and cultural ties to the area and as an attempt to legitimize Israel’s occupation and to Judaize the area.