Tension is growing ahead of annexation, but what will it mean?

Very little information has been revealed about a potentially momentous, history-changing decision.

EFRAT. IS it time to annex this Gush Etzion community? (photo credit: REUTERS)
EFRAT. IS it time to annex this Gush Etzion community?
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Tension is growing in Israel and the region ahead of plans by the Netanyahu government to annex or apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was in Israel on Tuesday, in a positive sign of the growing ties between the nations. However, rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip on Monday night. This shows that many balls are in play at the same time as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to push through some kind of annexation agreement within his coalition and with the Trump administration.
But what will it look like? What does it mean? Very little information has been revealed about a potentially momentous, history-changing decision.
The Palestinians are appealing to the international community to intervene, and key countries such as Jordan have warned Israel about changing the status quo in the territories.
In response, there is pressure within Israel on Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz to open up about his views on sovereignty and explain the policy he would like to see be enacted. The problem appears to be that Israel’s leaders don’t know how to clearly articulate their vision. It is imperative that they do lay one out though to the Israeli people, to explain what they see happening and how the change on the ground will strengthen Israel and be defended.
US President Donald Trump’s peace plan refers to annexation of 30% of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley. This is a historic opportunity because Trump is running for reelection, and the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden, is currently leading in the polls. Yet Israel must balance its desire to annex with the need to work with the Democratic Party, not to mention other countries.
This is a sensitive time. The Knesset is being pushed to bring sovereignty to a vote, but quotes from the leadership are indecisive. Netanyahu has said he doesn’t know the stance of Blue and White. This has all the hallmarks of a potential train wreck. When a government is not on the same page, the populace does not know what is happening. Many pro-Israel voices abroad don’t know how to articulate Israel’s decisions. There has been pushback by voices in the UK and elsewhere, not just opposing annexation, but expressing concerns for the future of the two-state solution.
It is incumbent upon a responsible government to put forward its plans. Israel has made major policy changes before. It annexed the Golan and enlarged the borders of Jerusalem. It returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and withdrew from the Gaza Strip. We know what sacrifice looks like. We know about withdrawal, such as from Lebanon 20 years ago. When it comes to the West Bank, is the plan to annex just a small amount and see how things evolve? If that is the concept, will Israel’s next years be of incremental annexation? What is the overall goal? Is it the Jordan Valley and the settlement blocs? Or is it much more?
Israel has long taken for granted security cooperation with the Palestinians. While the US has walked away from key international forums, such as UNESCO, UNRWA and the office of the United States Security Coordinator, which once played a large role in training Palestinian Authority Security Forces, it is unclear what US policy will be in the years to come. Trump has indicated that faraway wars are not Washington’s concern. If a conflict breaks out here, will Israel be left to fend for itself, with the US saying it has already given Israel what it wanted? The Israeli public deserves to know what the eventualities are.
It is not proper for a country to stumble toward a major policy decision without leadership that articulates hope and promise for the future. Too many democracies have seen chaos erupt when leadership was lacking. Israel has had a decade of stability, but changes in the West Bank are a gamble. If Israel is to set a new course, it needs to have more transparency with its citizens and the world.