What the government isn't telling you about annexation – opinion

Without fully understanding the implications for our future, the Israeli Right with Netanyahu at the helm “marketed” one of the greatest dangers to the State of Israel as “a legitimate achievement.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu – is annexation more a political interest than a legacy issue? (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu – is annexation more a political interest than a legacy issue?
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Within a couple of years, annexation of the territories morphed from a distorted vision in right-wing quarters to the declared policy of the Israeli government. The puzzling decision by Blue and White and Labor to join the Netanyahu government stoked the public’s illusion that such a move was possible. Many of us shrug their shoulders and say, “Actually, why not?”
Thus, without fully understanding the implications for our future, the Israeli Right with Netanyahu at the helm “marketed” one of the greatest dangers to the State of Israel as “a legitimate achievement,” without telling the public that such a unilateral declaration of annexation and its attendant legislation would install an apartheid regime in Israel.
It should be stated up front: The idea of annexation was planted on the first day of the occupation, after the Six Day War. Already in late 1967, the Israeli government annexed eastern Jerusalem and its surroundings containing many Palestinian villages. The territory was annexed but the people – one third of the city’s population – remained bereft of basic civil rights, giving rise to the first instance of institutionalized ethnic discrimination. It was not yet called “apartheid,” even though South Africa’s apartheid regime was at its height at that time and diplomatic relations between the two countries were almost a foregone conclusion.
It bears noting that the word “apartheid” provokes moral revulsion worldwide as it recalls a deplorable criminal and inhuman regime, whereas among many Israelis it elicits a yawn and denial. However, the reality is clear: Laundered annexation is tantamount to apartheid. It’s sad to see how the laundry works overtime in Israel.
According to the Rome Convention, which serves as the source of authority for the International Criminal Court in The Hague, apartheid is a crime against humanity. The Israeli occupation regime in the West Bank is defined as temporary, and therefore the international community distinguishes between the military regime in the occupied territories and democracy in the State of Israel, despite the latter’s responsibility for the situation in the army-controlled West Bank, which bears clear characteristics of apartheid.
Replacing the military occupation with annexation, or the synonymous “application of Israeli law and jurisdiction” in the occupied territories, is expected to make the world realize that an oppressive apartheid regime exists in Israel, with all that this implies.
It is distressing that few of us know what took place in South Africa’s fearsome apartheid regime, how dark it was, and what institutions were established and laws enacted to allow the white minority to enjoy a high quality of life, at the expense of a violent and corrupt oppression of the black majority. The resemblance between then-South Africa to present-day Israel is heart-wrenching: one-sixth of South Africa’s population was white (a rate of 5:1), whereas in the West Bank settlers are one-sixth and Palestinians are five-sixths of the population (a rate of 1:5).
In South Africa, whites enjoyed full privileges and blacks were deprived of any rights or future; in the West Bank, in contrast, it is the settlers who enjoy unique privileges and the Palestinians who have no rights or future, to the point that some even fantasize about deporting them to Jordan. Yet we deny reality and shrug off its consequences: Apartheid is already here!

PEOPLE PLAY with laundered words and call it “annexation,” but the moment is approaching when Israeli institutions, including the Knesset and the government, will be able to enact laws that will apply to the occupied territories as well. In other words, a single regime may soon rule from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean with no recourse to the Supreme Court to stop it. This situation will turn Israel into an apartheid regime.
A report by the Zulat Institute published this week under the name “Laundromat” shows how the Netanyahu government has methodically inured the Israeli public into believing that becoming an apartheid state is a legitimate and rational act. The systematic and deliberate use of laundered concepts such as “annexation” and “applying sovereignty” has become increasingly commonplace over time and has been advanced by politicians and media figures to divert attention elsewhere.
As a result of this deliberate laundering, use of the term “applying sovereignty” in the media increased by 3,425% between December 2019 and January 2020, while mention of the word “apartheid” remained unchanged, and even declined in some media outlets.
“Applying sovereignty” and “partial annexation” have been normalized and embedded in the public discourse, and have become policy moves expected to be approved by the Knesset with the passive/active support of Labor and Blue and White members, who are in the Knesset by virtue of the ballots cast by center and left-wing voters unfamiliar with their repercussions.
It should be noted that the laundering mechanism strictly used the term “applying sovereignty” in the initial phases, while in subsequent stages the process went up one notch and the effort focused on emptying the concept of annexation itself and uploading it with a softer, more moderate and tolerable meaning. One of the key methods used to this end was to constantly emphasize the apparent difference between full and partial annexation.
As part of the shift from the fringes to the mainstream, a growing number of voices started to be heard in Israeli politics and in the media – much of it coming from the left-center – whereby the implications are not disastrous, if at stake is only a partial annexation of settlement blocs or of the Jordan Valley. However, any annexation of territory that is not part of negotiations with the Palestinians – be it large, partial, minimal or even symbolic – runs counter to international law and to the post-World War II order created to prevent its recurrence.
Annexation is annexation, and there is no fundamental, constitutional, political or security-based difference in the international arena where the chances of establishing a Palestinian state or our relations with the Arab countries, especially Jordan, are concerned.
The sooner we understand it, the better: A bunch of laundered words will not change the fact that we are on the brink of the State of Israel becoming a full-blown apartheid regime, a move that will seriously impact our moral fortitude, international standing and national security.
The writer is one of the founders of the Zulat Institute for Equality and Human Rights. He previously served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa, and is currently chair of the Policy Working Group, an advocacy team on policy issues.