Netanyahu’s annexation plan is a liberal Zionist dream

Israeli forces demolish a restaurant belongs to Palestinians in the West Bank on 26 August 2019 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Anadolu Agency]

Asa Winstanley

Middle East Monitor  /  September 13, 2019

The liberal Zionist “two state solution” supporters have been out in force, tweeting about how they “condemn” and are “concerned” about Benjamin Netanyahu and his plan to annex as much as a third of the occupied West Bank. With Israel’s latest General Election coming up next week, on Tuesday Netanyahu detailed his landmark plan to formally declare a huge swathe of the occupied Palestinian territory a part of the present day state of Israel, should voters give him the mandate.

Netanyahu has talked up the possibility of annexing large parts of the West Bank before, but this is his most detailed plan to date. The map he unveiled at a press conference on Tuesday showed the entire Jordan Valley annexed to Israel. The blue swathe is a declaration of intent, killing the prospect of a Palestinian state in less than 22 per cent of historic Palestine that the West Bank already represents.

The Jordan Valley is the West Bank’s nominal border with the state of Jordan. Cutting it off like this means that any “Palestinian state” in the West Bank will be entirely surrounded by Israel. That would not be a state, but a Bantustan, like the puppet Black statelets that the South African apartheid regime held up as a pretence of “democracy” and Black self-rule.

In truth, the situation in the West Bank has for decades already been a Bantustan. The entire purpose of the Oslo Accords was to employ a Palestinian subcontractor for Israel’s occupation; step forward the Palestinian Authority.

The transit crossing points in the Jordan Valley have been entirely controlled by Israel alone since 1967, and remain so until today. This newest annexation plan represents a formal recognition by Israeli law of that reality. It also represents the newest stage in Israel’s decades-long colonisation of Palestinian lands.

In typically racist fashion, Netanyahu boasted that “not a single Palestinian” would be annexed to Israel as part of his plan. The primary colonisation goal of the Zionist movement has always been “maximum amount of Palestinian land, minimum number of Palestinians”.

sraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the West Bank town of Hebron, on 4 September 2019 [Kobi Gideon/GPO/Anadolu Agency]

However, any analysis of Netanyahu’s map comparing it with credible population figures in the Palestinian land affected by his plan shows that his claim is a complete lie in any case. One conservative Israeli analysis of the map concluded that 6,000 Palestinians in isolated villages in the Jordan Valley will be affected. Their fate is unknown, but the annexation will make them even more vulnerable to Israeli expulsion and displacement than they already are. An analysis by Israeli group Peace Now, though, shows that the plan will leave more than 44,000 Jordan Valley Palestinians living in isolated areas, effectively living inside “Israel”, but permanently deprived of citizenship or voting rights.

The conservative analysis, by The Times of Israel, excludes the large population of Jericho, a historic Palestinian city which was shown on Netanyahu’s map as an orange island surrounded by a sea of Israeli blue annexation. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates the population of the entire Jericho local authority region (including the city) to be more than 51,000 Palestinians.

Comparing the map to one prepared by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalem (page 13) shows that Netanyahu’s proposed Jordan Valley annexation zone passes through regions of the West Bank where as many as 50,000 Palestinians live in Area C (non-urban areas designated under the Oslo Accords). It’s hard to tell exactly how many of these people will be affected by the annexation plan, as the map does not recognise the Palestinian Authority’s local government regions.

Moreover, almost nobody in Israel is talking about the possibility of granting Palestinians any basic human or political rights, especially the right to vote. Netanyahu’s boast about how not a single Palestinian is supposedly annexed by his plan is a declaration of intent to continue denying them the same democratic rights that Jewish settlers already enjoy.

For years, all credible population figures have pointed to the fact that Israeli Jews are no longer a demographic majority in historic Palestine, and may well already be a narrow minority. The Jewish majority was always artificial in any case, violently gerrymandered from 1947 onwards by expelling most of the indigenous people from the country, and denying their internationally recognised right to return to their homes ever since. As such, a true democracy implementing a system of one person, one vote, would mean that a future Palestinian majority would simply vote for the return of Palestine, and the return of their relatives from violently enforced exile.

Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq has called for international sanctions on Israel in response to Netanyahu’s latest annexation threats. It warned “that the international community’s failure to hold Israel to account for previous illegal acts of annexation in Jerusalem and the occupied Syrian Golan, has granted Israel a carte blanche to continue its belligerent occupation and colonialist annexationist expansion, unconstrained.”

European powers make a big show of expressing toothless “concerns” about such Israeli plans, but they continue to endorse them tacitly nonetheless by taking precisely zero enforcement action. Supposedly left-wing Zionist organisations in Britain are also clutching their pearls at the plan. The Jewish Labour Movement, for example, tweeted that it “unequivocally condemn[ed]” the plan. This is pure sophistry, and a PR move designed to dampen down the increasingly critical reception that the JLM has within the Labour Party grassroots.

The Netanyahu plan is, in fact, if anything a more moderate version of the infamous Allon Plan of 1967, which would have annexed an even larger swathe of land along the Jordan Valley, as well as the entire central region of the West Bank, splitting it in half. This plan was advocated by Yigal Allon, a former general (a leader of the Nakba’s ethnic cleansing operations starting from 1947) and then a minister in the Israeli government led by the party of the “Labor Zionist” movement at the time, the Labor Alignment. That the JLM should be condemning the plan of their own ideological predecessor is a sign that Netanyahu’s move actually has its origins in the dreams and practices of the “Labor Zionist” movement. It is, in short, actually a liberal Zionist dream.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East