Have we all forgotten about annexation? - analysis

It wasn’t that long ago, in fact just 10 days back, that the annexation question, or whether Israel would extend its sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, was all the rage.

Benjamin Netanyahu announces that if reelected, he will extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, September 10 2019 (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Benjamin Netanyahu announces that if reelected, he will extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, September 10 2019
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
Remember annexation?
It wasn’t that long ago, in fact just 10 days back, that the annexation question, or whether Israel would extend its sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria, was all the rage. The issue dominated the news in advance of the July 1 date when, according to the Likud-Blue and White coalition agreement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could bring the issue to the cabinet or Knesset for a decision.
In the days leading up to that date, which was never a deadline – only the day from which Netanyahu could take action if he wished – foreign leaders warned, the Palestinians threatened, officials from Washington came and left, meetings were held and nothing moved.
July 1 came and passed and nothing happened at all.
It still could happen, Likud officials were quoted as saying; it still, might happen, US sources chimed in. But in the meantime, the whole episode seems to have been much ado about little.
This week, France, Germany, Jordan and Egypt ratcheted up their warnings not to act, the EU foreign policy chief added his voice and Netanyahu had a conversation with his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, triggered by an op-ed Johnson penned in Yediot Aharonot against the move. But that was all external.
Domestically, there was no discernible activity on the issue. Neither the security cabinet nor the regular cabinet held meetings on it, the Foreign Ministry issued no directives to its envoys abroad on how to answer questions on the matter, the Justice Ministry did not hold any high public meetings about the move’s ramifications and there were no reports of IDF meetings to operationalize a plan to apply Israeli law. And the absence of any of that indicated that there was nothing imminent in the works.
Equally telling, Netanyahu made no public mention of the matter this week.
And what does all that indicate? It means that if Netanyahu wants to back away from the idea – perhaps convinced that the costs outweigh the benefits, or that it would be worthwhile to wait until November to see how the US elections turn out – then the likely way for him to do so would be to just let the issue fade.
No dramatic pronouncement, no security cabinet vote, no high-level meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – just do nothing and let the issue disappear from the radar screen.
In the meantime, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is once again saying that he is willing to negotiate with Israel under the auspices of the Quartet, made up of the US, EU, UN and Russia. He made comments to that effect this week in telephone conversations he held with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
While some may see this as some kind of breakthrough, a goodwill gesture of sorts he is throwing toward Netanyahu if he decides not to go through with any annexation move, it is actually nothing of the kind. Abbas has for years been saying that he is willing to negotiate with Israel under Quartet auspices – there is nothing new here. Not direct negotiations with Israel, but under the watchful eyes of the EU, UN, Russia and the US. Yes, he will agree to US involvement as long as it is diluted by the other parties.
Abbas knows full well that this is not something Israel would agree to, since the Quartet is stacked against it as three of its four members – the EU, Russia and the UN – already have backed what the Palestinians want to see as the outcome of the negotiations: a two-state solution, based on the 1967 lines, with east Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.
When Jerusalem hears that Abbas wants to reconvene the Quartet and negotiate under its auspices, it doesn’t hear a genuine Palestinian desire to negotiate, but rather an attempt to get the international community to “deliver” Israel. The chances of Netanyahu agreeing to that are equal to the chances of Abbas agreeing to any Israeli annexation.