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Gangster Geopolitics and Israel’s Annexation Plans

  • Richard Falk
  • June, 2020
  • 148

The Israeli plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank shows a shocking disregard for international law.

These are the strangest of times. On this almost everyone will agree.

Lives all over the planet are being torn apart either by the COVID-19 pandemic or as a result of its devastating social and economic dislocations. In such a moment, it is hardly surprising that the best and worst of humanity is being showcased.

Yet what seems worse beyond even these forebodings is the persistence of gangster geopolitics in its various manifestations.

Intensifying United States sanctions in the midst of the health crisis on already deeply afflicted countries such as Iran and Venezuela is one striking example. This display of the primacy of geopolitics is highlighted by its rejections of numerous high-profile humanitarian appeals for the suspension of sanctions, at least for the duration of the pandemic. Instead of suspension and empathy, we find a tone-deaf Washington almost gleefully upping its ‘maximum pressure’ policy, perversely grabbing the opportunity to rachet up the pain level.

Another dark tale is the macabre Israeli dance around the disruptive lawlessness of the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank promised by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The insistence that any annexation of occupied Palestinian territory directly violates fundamental norms of international law seems no longer to be taken seriously. Maybe because of this, Israel is poised to annex without even attempting to offer legal justifications for overriding the widely endorsed and rigidly interpreted rule that a sovereign state is not allowed to annex foreign territory acquired by force.

This instance of annexation additionally involves an extreme repudiation of international humanitarian law as embodied in the Fourth Geneva Convention. It amounts to a unilateral move by Israel to change the status of land in the West Bank from that of occupied since 1967 to that of its sovereign territorial authority. And further, such contemplated annexation directly challenges the authority of the United Nations, which by an overwhelming continuous consensus regards Israel's presence in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza as solely based on force and occupation, making any modification dependent on a prior authoritative expression of Palestinian consent, which is hard to imagine ever being given.

The Israeli security ‘debate’

For all these reasons it is not surprising that even Israeli heavyweights, including former heads of Mossad and Shin Bet, as well as retired army officers are sounding the alarm. Of course, none of this Israeli internal debate objects to annexation because it violates international law, rejects UN or European Union authority, and ignores Palestinian inalienable rights.

All the objections to annexation from within Israel are couched by exclusive reference to a variety of concerns about alleged negative impacts on Israeli security. In particular, these critics from within Israel’s national security establishment are worried about disturbing Arab neighbours and further alienating international public opinion, especially in Europe, and to some extent the critics worry about weakening the solidarity of American and European Jews for Israel.

The pro-annexation side of the Israeli policy debate also mentions security considerations, especially with respect to the Jordan Valley and the settlements, but much less so. Unlike the critics, the more ardent proponents of annexation are land claimants.

They invoke a Jewish biblical entitlement to Judea and Samaria (known internationally as the West Bank). This entitlement is reinforced by referencing Jewish deep cultural traditions and centuries of historical connections between a small Jewish presence and this land held sacred.

As with Israeli critics of annexation, supporters feel no need to explain, or even notice, the disregard of Palestinian grievances and rights. Annexationists do not dare put forward an argument that the Jewish claims are more deserving of recognition than are the competing national claims of Palestinians, undoubtedly because their case is so weak in terms of modern ideas of law and the ethics of entitlement.

As has been the case throughout the Zionist narrative, Palestinian grievances, aspirations, and even the existence of a Palestinian people is not part of the Zionist imaginary except as political obstacles and demographic impediments.

At the same time, all along Zionism has been tactically opportunistic about disclosing the full extent of its project, instead focusing on what it could gain under a given set of circumstances as all that it wanted.


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