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Monfort Advisory brief / June 2020
The Trump Administration Peace Plan, released in January 2020, has paved the way for an Israeli
annexation of parts of the West Bank. Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that annexation will
officially begin on July 1, 2020. With mere weeks ahead of this deadline, it is time to ask whether
this is likely to happen. The issue of annexation is incredibly complex and brings up many
questions: what does annexation actually look like on the ground and in terms of the Palestinian
inhabitants of the annexed areas? How will the process unfold? What would be the international
and Palestinian response? Much of this is unknown, for the most part because the relevant
actors, and Israel prime amongst them, have remained vague about details. Netanyahu in
particular has avoided sharing any concrete information about it.
Instead, let us look at the political process around this issue. It’s important to begin with saying
that the July 1 deadline set by Netanyahu is not set in stone. Currently, there is talk of pushing it
to a later time. The reason for this is concern that the U.S. would backtrack from its commitment
to annexation, as a result of dissent voiced by many sides, particularly the Israeli right, which has
surprisingly become one of the stronger voices against annexation, which, they argue, concedes
too much to Palestinians. Annexation is opposed now on both the left and the right, and is a
contentious issue between Likud and Blue and White (both of which make up the unity
government). As such, and given vocal opposition from the international community, Arab
countries, the Palestinians themselves and the Democratic party (and presidential nominee Joe
Biden) – there is concern that the current American administration might rethink its commitment
to this move.
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However, the central reason why annexation is likely to be extended and delayed is Netanyahu
himself. Politically, it works well for him to have the annexation plan on the agenda for as long
as possible, without actually moving ahead with it. As long as it’s discussed, there is less attention
being directed to all of the other issues that are not as favorable to him: The economic crisis, the
inflated government and all the tensions between him and his political partners and, most of all,
his trial. As long as annexation stirs drama and interest, Netanyahu welcomes it. To actually
implement it would mean risking strong criticism from both his left and his right which could
destabilize his government and possibly an escalation into violence in the West Bank. With
annexation ahead of him, Netanyahu can argue that he alone should be the one to advance it.
With annexation behind him, all he would be left with is possible violence, political instability and
criticism. It is best for him to be as vague about the details of annexation and to delay it for as
long as possible.