The 'minor' annexation plan is a major disaster – opinion

Even without further steps toward annexation, “Greater Jerusalem” on its own destroys any chance for the two-state solution and dooms Israelis and Palestinians to a growing, irreversible, apartheid.

THE BEDOUIN encampment of Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim. (photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
THE BEDOUIN encampment of Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim.
(photo credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)
As pressure mounts on the Netanyahu government to delay the announcement of annexation, Israel’s governing coalition – and apparently also the White House – is looking for a way out of this mess. Their solution? A more limited, thereby presumably less harmful, deal of the annexation of “Greater Jerusalem.”
The “magic” of this proposal is clear: Jerusalem enjoys a broad consensus that it has been “ours” since the time of King David until the days of King Trump – the latter of whom recognized Israeli sovereignty over the entire area of east and west Jerusalem with the mere stroke of a pen.
What harm could be done by another “minor” annexation of the areas to the east, south and north of the land already annexed in 1967?
Yet, the reality is quite different: Even without further steps toward annexation, “Greater Jerusalem” on its own destroys any chance for the two-state solution, denies the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and sovereignty, and dooms both Israelis and Palestinians to a growing, irreversible, apartheid reality.
“Greater Jerusalem” includes the three settlement blocs of Ma’aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion, and Givat Ze’ev – and perhaps an additional fourth bloc, Adam-Kokhav Ya’akov. Each of these blocs, in particular the seemingly “normative” Ma’aleh Adumim, takes a big chunk out of the West Bank, splits it, and prevents contiguity of Palestinian space that is essential for a viable and independent Palestinian entity. Moreover, these settlement blocs are not homogeneous but rather a complex weave of mostly small Jewish settlements, Palestinian communities, and open areas – many of which are agricultural lands owned by Palestinians who will be cut off from accessing their land should annexation occur.
About 140,000 settlers live within the area in question alongside about 600,000 Palestinians. A hundred thousand of these Palestinians will remain in the areas slated for annexation, while the remaining half a million will find themselves just outside, and in many cases completely cut off, from the annexed land and from each other.
A significant number of the Palestinian communities in these areas are already subject to unceasing efforts to displace them and deprive them of their land and homes. Some of the more well-known of these are Khan al-Ahmar in the Ma’aleh Adumim bloc; Walaja, Battir and Husan on the way to Gush Etzion; and Bir Neballa, El-Jib, and Beit Hanina al-Balad, in the Givat Ze’ev bloc – communities that are already literally fenced into their enclave. An annexation process will provide the Israeli authorities with additional tools for displacing these communities and depriving them of their properties. Beyond all of this, “major” or “minor” annexation will provide a legal imprimatur to a regime of separation based upon discriminatory civil statuses.
While it is possible to call this arrangement by various names, the significant blow to the structure of Israeli democracy will be catastrophic.
And what about Jerusalem itself? Has Jerusalem profited from the metropolitan areas that were forced upon it and whose connection to the city will only be strengthened in the case of a “minor” or “major” annexation? For this purpose, the words written more than a decade ago by Prof. Israel Kimhi, a leading expert on Jerusalem urban planning, are ever more relevant today:
“We must ask if the expansion of the city has been of benefit to it. Has the competition between Palestinians and Israelis for control of the city and its space imparted special value upon it? Has the accelerated development of the city not exacted a heavy toll on the environment and on the quality of life of its residents? Has the development of Jerusalem’s periphery not exacted a heavy price on the city? … Unfortunately, the answer to most of these questions is in the negative.”
There is no doubt that the annexation of “Greater Jerusalem” will only accelerate the territorial and demographic war that is already controlling decision-making processes in the city and is responsible, more than any other factor, for its continuing physical and socioeconomic deterioration.
The annexation of “Greater Jerusalem” is not a disentangling of any sort, rather it is an entanglement of immense proportions. Aside from providing an escape route for politicians, this decision will only cause greater harm.
In Jerusalem, as in the entire Israeli-Palestinian arena, a secure and stable life can exist only with recognition of the entirety of the connections and rights of both peoples to the land; when each can conduct their daily and public lives – without fear – in an independent, democratic and equal manner.
Annexation, however “minor” it may be, will destroy any chance of this vision. It must be stopped.
The writer is the executive director of Ir-Amim.