The rightful debate about the immunity law that would protect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a corruption indictment has steered public attention away from the issue of partial or full annexation of the West Bank, an issue that is making its way into coalition agreements as we speak.
The majority of Israelis reject such an annexation — even those who are not excited about a Palestinian state, to say the least. But among MKs set to be part of the new coalition, there is a majority for the decision to claim the land as Israeli.
In light of this apparent decision, Commanders for Israel’s Security, a group of former IDF officers who object to such a move, sent a letter to the prime minister in which they asked him to avoid the annexation of the West Bank or at least hold a referendum if the government decides on it. Hundreds of former security officials signed the letter.
“Declaring Israeli rule over the West Bank — either wholly or partially — not as a part of a political agreement will lead to a series of reactions that would severely harm Israel’s security and economy, and its status both at home and on the international stage,” the letter reads.
“Annexing (the territories) without an agreement will endanger Israeli security and the lives of residents… What will start as a partial annexation will lead to a full annexation of the West Bank, and the millions of Palestinian people who live there.”
Netanyahu tweeted in response that “these experts” were in favor of the Iran deal (which he bitterly opposed and Donald Trump tried to destroy), and dismissed their warning that the prime minister was “navigating the wrong way and destroying our alliance with the U.S.”
Mic drop? Well, not exactly.
Firstly, our alliance with Trump is indeed important, but it does not constitute a pact with America. Israel is slowly but surely losing the support of the Democratic Party and the largely liberal American Jewish community. It’s true that this is mostly a result of anti-Israel propaganda, but there’s more to it. And Netanyahu has had a part in this disaffection.
Secondly, many experts have been wrong about many things, over and over again. When it comes to Iran, it seems that you don’t have to be a Netanyahu supporter in order to understand that he was right. Iran indeed took advantage of the nuclear deal in order to expand its devastating impact, put Israel in danger, manufacture more and more missiles and shake the stability of neighboring countries.
Just like jihadists, Iran spreads destruction wherever it goes. And we have the nuclear deal to thank for this.
But just like these hundreds of Israeli security officials had it wrong on Iran, and like JFK and Churchill had many things wrong, Netanyahu was also wrong about Iraq in 2002. And he was wrong big time.
Netanyahu was one of the people who pressured the U.S. government to attack in Iraq back then.
Make no mistake, he told Congress, once Saddam Hussein gets nuclear weapons, terror groups will have nuclear weapons.
But Israel’s official position was very different back then. Then-prime minister Ariel Sharon opposed Netanyahu’s stance, and actually tried to persuade then-president George W. Bush that Iran was the problem and not Iraq.
But let bygones be bygones. Research clearly stated that Israel wasn’t the one who pushed the U.S. into the war in Iraq, but there are those who insist on reminding the public about Netanyahu’s position back then as way of questioning his current position about Iran. Yes, he was wrong about Iraq, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong about Iran.
In the same way, the fact that security officials were wrong about one matter doesn’t mean they are wrong about another. And annexation is a different ball game. There is no need to wait for the future to arrive to understand that annexation means the establishment of a Jewish-Arab entity. And the mixing of different and hostile populations always ends in bloodshed.
Some rightists imagine that we could simply encourage Palestinians to leave. But that’s a pipe dream, nothing more. Even if we take into account the 20,000 or so Palestinians who leave the West Bank every year, the Arab population is constantly growing due to higher fertility rates than the Jews.
That’s why annexation means a bi-national state, with or without civil rights for all. Either scenario spells the same thing — the end of the Zionist dream.
But we should despair. There are other solutions, compromise solutions based on civil separation under Israeli rule. Whichever solution we may opt for, there’s no need to wait only to ultimately discover that the security experts were right about annexation.