Partial West Bank annexation would ignite the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories and cause the PA to collapse, the nongovernmental group Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) warned over the weekend.
“Unilateral annexation has the potential to ignite a serious conflagration,” the group said, adding that “any partial annexation is likely to set in motion a chain reaction over which Israel will have no control, leading to the collapse of the Palestinian security agencies and of the Palestinian Authority.”
It issued its statement in an open letter to Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and his party colleague Gabi Ashkenazi.
CIS defines itself as “nonpartisan movement” comprising “retired IDF generals and their Mossad, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and [Israel] Police equivalents.
It has taken a very strong stance against any unilateral application of sovereignty over the settlements, even a limited one.
In an open letter over the weekend signed by 220 former army generals and their equivalents, the group asked Gantz and Ashkenazi to ensure that the next government does not annex any part of the West Bank.
Annexation has been a sticking point in coalition talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz. Netanyahu wants to make good on his pre-campaign pledge to apply sovereignty to all the settlements, including the Jordan Valley. Gantz has opposed such a move.
“Do not proceed with unilateral annexation (of settlements, settlement blocs or the Jordan Valley), for Israel will have no control over the ensuing chain reaction,” CIS said.
Should the PA collapse, it said, Israel would have to provide civilian services for 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.
“The annual cost of assuming responsibility for civilian life in the territories would reach NIS 52 billion,” CIS said.
Such unilateral action would also “jeopardize the peace treaty and security cooperation with Jordan, coordination with the Palestinian security forces and the very Jewish character of the state,” it said.
CIS called on “relevant government agencies” to hold a transparent and honest conversation on the impact of annexation prior to any Knesset and cabinet vote.
Included in the information provided to the public should be a risk-benefit analysis, it said.
“Before making any decision about annexation, the government should share with the public its full ramifications and the exit strategy from the ensuing military, economic and political imbroglio,” CIS said.
On Sunday, My Israel, a right-wing NGO, began a campaign against Gantz and Ashkenazi, asking them to drop their opposition to sovereignty.
My Israel chairwoman Sara Haetzni-Cohen said: “If it is a choice between sovereignty or a unity government, we chose sovereignty.”
“Gantz and Ashkenazi are trying to impose their minority opinion on the coalition majority that is forming in support of this historic process,” she said. “Ultimately, there are 15 [Blue and White] Knesset members versus 58 [led by Netanyahu] and maybe even more.”
“They both understand that there is a short window of opportunity [for sovereignty. They are playing for time to deliberately ensure that Israel misses the [sovereignty] train and cannot advance the long-awaited sovereignty,” Haetzni-Cohen said.
Peace Now, a left-wing group, targeted Gantz, Ashkenazi, as well as Labor Party leader Amir Peretz, who also is expected to enter Netanyahu’s government.
Peace Now has embarked on a campaign that calls on the three politicians not to enter a government that supports annexation.
On Friday, Peace Now held a small demonstration in front of Gantz’s home. It has also issued social-media memes targeting Gantz singularly and others that involve a call to the trio.
“Gantz, Ashkenazi, Peretz – Don't let the Likud-led government use you to advance its annexationist agenda. Act as a veto for the sake of Israel,” Peace Now said.