Experts warn against impending Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements

A view overlooks the West Bank settlement of Ari'el. (AP)

Israel’s security will be put at risk if it annexes settlements in Palestinian territory as foreseen under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, Israeli and Palestinian experts say.

The Middle East peace proposal, which was presented by Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House on Tuesday, grants Palestinians limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and allows Israel to annex all its settlements there.

“Israel is getting an immediate American recognition of Israeli sovereignty on all the settlements, without exceptions,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday.

Israeli expert Nadav Tamir says such a move would put Israel’s security at risk.

Annexation “will drag our security forces to situations that will not bring security, but rather less stability,” said Tamir, a former policy adviser for President Shimon Peres, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Palestinian expert Dr. Salim Munayer echoed this fear.

“In this peace plan proposal, neither security for Israelis nor justice for Palestinians has been addressed,” said Munayer, founder of Musalaha, a non-profit organization that promotes reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis.

Though Netanyahu said his Cabinet would vote Sunday to extend Israeli sovereignty on Jewish settlements in the West Bank, it was postponed.

The vote was not technically feasible because of the need for preparations, including to consult Israel’s attorney general, according to Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.

Former Israeli parliament member Ksenia Svetlova said it was questionable whether Netanyahu would proceed with unilateral annexation, given he did not do so during his previous years in office.

Leaving all existing settlements at bay will “hardly guarantee Israel’s security,” according to Svetlova.

“It will be extremely difficult to protect them. And if there will be no real reconciliation, there will also be no real security,” said Svetlova in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Former Israeli Deputy National Security Adviser for Foreign Policy Orna Mizrahi said annexation will not have an effect on Israel’s security.

“Annexation doesn’t have any connection to the security aspect. The security of Israel is preserved anyway as long as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) control the West Bank. It doesn’t have any connection to the legal status of the settlements,” said Mizrahi.

The Palestinians view the settlements in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem – territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war – as a major obstacle to peace.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas responded to Trump’s proposal with “1,000 nos.”

If Israel plows ahead with plans to unilaterally annex territory, with US support, it would be hard to reverse the process, according to Palestinian expert Zaha Hassan.

Once the US recognizes Israeli annexation, “it will be politically difficult for a new administration to reverse course,” Hassan said in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner said on Wednesday he was not familiar with any Israeli plan to immediately annex settlements, during an interview with CNN.

Over 460,000 Israeli settlers reside in the occupied West Bank alongside 2.5 million Palestinians, and another 215,000 to 300,000 live in annexed east Jerusalem, next to more than 300,000 Palestinians, both territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

Palestinian expert Bernard Sabella said beyond security issues, annexation would come with the “pressing issue” of coexistence between two peoples on the same piece of land.

Annexation would “result in a variety of issues that touch on the life of the two groups” including the question of how the “shared” environment would be managed jointly – if at all.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:53 - GMT 06:53
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