Annexation will cause more conflict in West Bank: UN chief Guterres

Netanyahu seems determined to go ahead with the plan

United Nations Israel Palestinians UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to start annexing parts of the West Bank from July 1 onward, as agreed with his partner in the coalition government, Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu seems determined to go ahead with the plan even as UN Chief Antonio Guterres hoped that Netanyahu would back off from the plan and warned that the annexation will cause more conflict in the region.

US President Donald Trump, in late January, had drawn up a peace plan, in which annexation of 30 per cent of the West Bank region is included. The Palestinians and the international community, however, condemned the plan.

The Arab leaders accused Trump of not including them while drawing up the solution for the tension in the region that has been going on for decades.

Israel’s right-wing has maintained that the region is vital for the country’s security and has long favoured annexing parts or all of the West Bank, saying it is an inseparable part of the biblical Land of Israel.

But, most of the world considers the West Bank, captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 middle east war, to be occupied territory, and Israel’s dozens of settlements, now home to nearly 500,000 Jewish Israelis, as illegal. Netanyahu had been making annexation of the West Bank part of his campaign in order to appease hardline right voters.

The US, last year, also moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and said that it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital.

The Palestinian leadership around mid-June had proposed a plan that sought to create a “sovereign Palestinian state, independent and demilitarised”, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The plan also left options open to negotiating border modifications between the proposed state and Israel, as well as exchanges of land equal. The proposal was a response to Trump’s peace plan that was announced in January.

Trump's plan proposed the establishment of a demilitarised Palestinian state on the remaining patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories but did not include East Jerusalem.

As per the plan proposed by the Palestinians, they would only have limited autonomy in a fraction of territory they seek. Isolated Israeli settlements deep inside Palestinian territory would remain intact, and the Israeli military would retain overall security control over the Palestinian entity.

And though annexation will not change much, in the long term, there is a possibility of more conflict rising due to it.

The Palestinian Authority is protesting the annexation but has ruled out a violent response.

Netanyahu has said he opposes granting Israeli citizenship to Palestinians living on annexed lands. But this possibly opens Israel to charges of establishing an apartheid system that would draw heavy international condemnation.

Life will also become difficult for Palestinians who aren’t living on the annexed territory, especially if they have to cross through Israel-occupied territory to reach their farmlands and properties.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has warned of “significant consequences”, while, Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab states at peace with Israel, have condemned the annexation plan. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, powerful Arab players with informal relations with Israel, have said warming ties will be in danger.

The biggest hindrance to the annexation could be from Netanyahu’s partner in the coalition government, Benny Gantz. Opposition from Gantz will compel US officials to disallow the annexation.