Israel gearing up for West Bank annexation next month

Israel is gearing up for a controversial decision expected to be taken by the government next month to unilaterally extend the country’s sovereignty to territory that Palestinians also want for a future state.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said cabinet discussions on annexation would begin on July 1. He is expected to easily secure a majority vote in either the Knesset or within his cabinet.

But while Netanyahu is pushing forward at full speed, Israel’s main ally, the United States, is trying to put the brakes on annexation at least for now, according to recent media reports. A senior Israeli source said it appears America “want to downplay the enthusiasm” for a fast annexation while it deals with its own domestic problems instead.

Israel is gearing up for fallout from all angles should annexation go through. On the home front, Defense Minister Benny Gantz has already ordered the IDF to “step up preparations” for expected violence from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli leaders also anticipate an increase in boycotts from the international community and exclusion from scientific and economic projects.

The area in question is the Jordan Valley and 30 percent of the West Bank. Trump’s peace plan would create a Palestinian state on the remaining 70 percent of the West Bank that Israel would not annex.

Trump’s peace plan was rejected in its entirety by the Palestinian Authority which subsequently cut off negotiations with the United State. And not surprisingly, Arab nations are lining up against the expected Israeli annexation while European countries have also warned Israel of consequences of such a move.

Gulf states, which had largely supported Trump’s peace plan, are drawing the line at annexation.

“Continued Israeli talk of annexing Palestinian lands must stop,” Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a Twitter post. “Any unilateral Israeli move will be a serious setback for the peace process, undermine Palestinian self-determination & constitute a rejection of the international & Arab consensus towards stability & peace.”

Nevertheless, Israel’s right-wing government shows no signs of slowing down with its plans.

“July 1 is the first day when the matter can be brought to the cabinet and the Knesset,” said Knesset Member Ze’ev Elkin. “It could possibly take a few more days or weeks, but generally I think the prime minister is very clear that he intends to advance this.”

According to a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 50.1 percent of Israelis support annexation.