Mondoweiss / June 23, 2020
The former Israeli army Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Yair Golan has entered politics on the furthest left of the Zionist political spectrum – Meretz. Last week, he said that he would support annexation, if the “supreme goal is to separate from the Palestinians”:
“If Israel declares, ‘our goal is to separate from the Palestinians,’ and as part of the step of separation from the Palestinians we annex Gush Etzion or Ma’aleh Adumim, I will support it. If the Israeli government declares that its supreme goal is to separate from the Palestinians and reach a solution in which they do not live under our control, I’ll support that.”
On the face of it, Golan is breaking rightwards of Meretz, and ideologically joining the further right Labor, which is officially part of the new annexationist unity government.
Fellow Meretz leaders appear to be in confusion. Nr. 2 in Meretz, Tamar Zandberg, responded that “any legitimization of annexation echoes the pyromania of Bibi [Netanyahu], who is using annexation in an attempt to escape justice and is playing into his hands.” But Meretz Secretary General Tomer Reznik reduced Golan’s support for annexation to an ostensible “land swap”, saying that the idea of land swaps as part of an agreement with the Palestinians, which Golan supports, is part of the Geneva Initiative and the Meretz platform (as reported by Haaretz).
But Yair Golan’s statement is not just about any hypothetical mutually agreed to ‘land swap’. It is about annexation, and without being too semantic about the term, it means a unilateral action which is illegal. Actually, fellow Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz spelled that out pretty clearly, adding in no uncertain terms that it meant Apartheid, period:
“Annexation is a violation of international law, a violation of the peace agreements and a violation of the Oslo Accords. Annexation is apartheid.”
It’s also important to note in this context, how Yair Golan has branded himself as a liberal in Israel. In 2016, as Deputy Chief of Staff, he warned of “revolting processes” that led to the Holocaust:
“If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then – 70, 80 and 90 years ago – and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.”
That’s not a small statement for an Israeli leader, not least army leader, to make, and it is said to have costed him the post of Chief of Staff.
Golan has doubled down on the message more recently, when he entered politics last year, saying:
“I’m reminding people that the Nazis came to power democratically, so we have to be careful, very careful, so that extremist figures with a messianic view won’t exploit Israeli democracy to replace the system of government”.
Two months ago, Golan featured on a J Street Zoom discussion, J Street describing him as “one of the great hopes for the left progressive Zionist camp”. Golan warned emphatically about the planned annexation:
“Annexing 30 percent of Judea and Samaria is against the interests of Israel. Many former security figures say that… It’s according to some sort of messianic approach to life which… was so dangerous and so devastating along the Jewish history…. So we need to fight it…. Israel won’t do this annexation without the approval of United States. So yes, you need to work hard in Capitol Hill in order to block this development, which is so dangerous to Israel, against the interest of Israel.”
Last month, Golan featured in an Israeli Policy Forum call together with Joint List lawmaker Aida Touma-Sliman. Here Golan specifically warned of what he called “crawling annexation”, which he opined Netanyahu was set upon as a strategy:
“The real issue here is, you know, Netanyahu is not so stupid. He will not annex Judea and Samaria entirely [biblical term for West Bank]. And he will move forward with annexing… certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Ma’ale Adumim, Modi’in Illit, all kinds of settlements near the Green Line, things which are in the midst of the Israeli consensus, like Gush Etzion. That is the way he will explain to the rest of the world, Alright, we did what was reasonable, what was accepted by the Palestinians in former negotations, and what was heavily accepted by President Trump according to his future plan. No matter how we look at the subject, let’s say Netanyahu is serious, he will do it in the manner of crawling annexation.”
But this is a huge strawman. Because no one is suggesting that Netanyahu will be annexing the whole West Bank (which Golan calls by the biblical name Judea and Samaria), entirely, at this point. This has not been on any map drawn recently for the foreseeable future. It’s widely understood that this is only a partial annexation, at this point.
So Golan is actually misrepresenting the whole issue, and downplaying it. Notice how the same dots on the map which he mentioned last month, are present in his recent statement: Gush Etzion, Ma’aleh Adumim. And what about the Jordan Valley, which is the main chunk, and has also been “heavily accepted by President Trump”? This part of the radio interview was actually omitted by Haaretz. Golan said:
“The Jordan valley is a security matter, and it’s more complex. But I will support the annexation”.
Former Foreign Minister under Barak, Shlomo Ben Ami, states in his memoirs that the security claim to the Jordan Valley is “mythical”. For Golan it’s “complex”, but not complex enough to not be generally supported.
Actually, if we simplify all this, Golan is really supporting the “creeping annexation”, in so many words.
And just after this writing was finalised, the news came in: Benny Gantz, now Defense Minister and the supposed liberal counterweight to Netanyahu, is saying that “we won’t keep waiting” for the Palestinians. If they don’t want to discuss annexation, we’ll do it without them, because they’re just in “deep shit”. Haaretz reports about Benny Gantz making these remarks at a press briefing today at the Tel Aviv military headquarters.
“We won’t get into Palestinian deep shit,” Gantz said. “The Palestinians continue to reject dialogue and to remain in their ‘deep shit.’” Gantz was in fact saying the repeated “deep shit” in English idiom, though his comments were in Hebrew.
So once again, the Palestinians are supposedly missing another great opportunity, and it’s really their own fault, as it always is – it’s their own “shit”. Some people think Gantz is polite. I think he’s vulgar as hell.
“We will not take Palestinians into our territory. We will not violate human rights or freedom of movement. We will operate in coordination with all of the countries in the region with which we are in contact,” Gantz said. “We will not endanger any peace treaties, and we will carry out an orderly process vis-a-vis the army, military officials and in terms of policy and the security cabinet. We are involved and are deeply exerting our influence on this issue,” he added.
Gantz appears to think that this is liberal. He won’t take Palestinians into “our territory”, which is not “our territory”, otherwise it wouldn’t be an “annexation”. And how will we not take Palestinians in? By encircling them in Bantustans, because we want the land but not the people. And that Apartheid of course does not violate human rights, it’ll be the prettiest and most polite Apartheid you can imagine, it will be orderly and calm. If Palestinians make trouble, it’ll be their “shit”, because Palestinians just live in “deep shit”.
The opposition to annexation in Israel is just thunderous.
Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer, based in Denmark