With world leaders lining up to warn Israel against unilaterally declaring sovereignty over parts of the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering a less controversial alternative — the annexation of three large Jewish cities for now.
The annexing of Maale Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion could happen after July 1, according to top government sources. The three large “settlements” are already well-defined and would require additional planning, if any.
The sources said that Netanyahu would likely focus on these established blocs rather than declare an overall annexation in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley on July 1, apparently hoping to mitigate opposition while also appeasing right-wing factions of his government.
The United States at the moment seems less enthusiastic for recognizing any Israeli annexation without approval first from a joint U.S.-Israel mapping committee. The committee has been unable to progress these past few months due to the coronavirus pandemic shutdowns.
But the Palestinians want to declare a state on some of the land Israel would want to claim for itself. The Palestinian Authority and some of Israel’s closest allies, including Germany, contend that any annexation by Israel would destroy any hopes for reaching a two-state peace agreement.
“Many people in Israel — and also in the European Union — are preoccupied with the current developments in the Middle East peace process and the possible annexation plans,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said while in Israel on Wednesday. “Germany remains committed to the goal of a negotiated two-state solution. We will also talk about this and I will underline that we are ready to support all initiatives to revive talks between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Some countries have even promised to recognize a Palestinian state and sanction Israel if Netanyahu declares sovereignty, Palestinian officials said.
Many Israelis and their Zionist supporters believe that Israel already has a legitimate historic claim to Judea and Samaria. Just over 50 percent of Israelis are in favor of annexation. Some say the annexing of the three cities doesn’t go far enough.
“I’m in favor of sovereignty. I’m strongly opposed to establishing a Palestinian terror state in the heart of Israel. If this is Netanyahu’s legacy, with (the replacement Prime Minister Benny) Gantz at his side — we’ll fight against a Palestinian state with all our strength,” said Naftali Bennett who is now in the Knesset’s opposition bloc. “We need to apply sovereignty, stop being afraid, do it already, but not establish a Palestinian state.”