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 1 July 2020. With days before 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 1 July 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 US would backtrack from its commitment to annexation, as a result of dissent voiced by many sides. In particular is the Israeli right which has surprisingly become one of the stronger voices against annexation becasue, they argue, it concedes too much to Palestinians. Annexation is opposed now on both the left and the right, and is a contentious issue between Netanyahu’ Likud, and Benny Gantz’s Blue and White 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 its presidential nominee Joe Biden — there is concern that the current US Administration might rethink its commitment to this move.

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 is  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 destabilise 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.

Source: Monfort Advisory Group – June 2020

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