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  • The Arab world must unite against Israel’s annexation plans

The Arab world must unite against Israel’s annexation plans

23 May 2020
King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, is greeted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Aug. 7, 2017, in Ramallah, West Bank. (Getty Images)
King Abdullah II of Jordan, left, is greeted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Aug. 7, 2017, in Ramallah, West Bank. (Getty Images)
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While the world is preoccupied with fighting the spread of coronavirus — and its economic and political repercussions, which are painful for many countries — Israel has not forgotten its ambitions to annex Arab land.

It has declared its intention to push ahead with annexing parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, in flagrant violation of the principles of international law, and the principles and customs that govern international relations.

I do not think that the Israeli authorities will reconsider their decision. Now all they have to do is start implementing that decision, which once again raises the prospect of annexing East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan.

Israel began the process of annexing the Jordan Valley region (which represents 30 percent of the West Bank) with the implementation of the so-called Allon Plan in the aftermath of its occupation of the West Bank in 1967. Since then, it has been preparing the area militarily, security-wise, colonially and administratively so that parts of it could be annexed when conditions allowed.

It has sought to attach security importance to the region by linking it to Israel’s national security to support the argument that it needs to be under full Israeli sovereignty. Israel claims this would secure its eastern front, and has succeeded in convincing the Trump administration of this.

It seems clear that there is an Israeli consensus that the Jordan Valley region must be granted special status in any future political settlement. There is also a consensus among the right, the extreme right, and religious parties not to surrender it under any circumstances, even as part of a peace process.

Israel continues to act arrogantly despite the Arab League’s condemnation and rejection of the annexation plan.

King Abdullah of Jordan has made a strong statement condemning the Israeli plans. He went so far as to issue threats, which some Israeli media outlets took seriously.

Egypt’s stance on the crisis is clear and unambiguous, as was evident in Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s statements. He said Egypt’s fight against the coronavirus would not distract it from the Palestinian cause, which he described as the central cause of the Arab nation. He added that the people of Palestine have suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, the consequences of Israeli occupation.

“As Arab states, we must in this delicate circumstance join hands to stress our commitment to achieving a fair and comprehensive peace that leads to establishing an independent Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” Shoukry said.

He believes that Israel’s exploitation of the international preoccupation with the coronavirus as an opportunity to take unilateral action and implement a fait accompli on the ground will push the region toward a new cycle of violence, fueling terrorism and extremist ideologies.

“This is a setback for all efforts made over the past decades to combat terrorism,” he added.

As usual, criticism by Egypt and the Arab world is unlikely to persuade Israel to reconsider its decision, as it began preparing for the annexation of the Jordan Valley region long ago.

About 70,000 Palestinians live in the area, in addition to about 15,000 Israeli settlers in 19 settlements. It is one of the areas that Israel highlighted during the demarcation of borders implemented by the US-Israel joint committee, which was formed after the launch of the American peace plan in October last year, referred to by some as the “Deal of the Century.”

The agreement signed on April 20 by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (who hopes to become prime minister in 2021) to form a new Israeli government included, for the first time, a timeline for the legislative and executive procedures needed for the annexation. This agreement referred to “imposing full sovereignty over the settlements and vast areas in the West Bank” in July 2020.

So, the intention is to annex these lands, especially since there is a consensus among Israeli political forces not to relinquish them under any circumstances.

Cairo previously rejected the Trump administration’s initiative to bring peace to the region. It said in January that Egypt appreciates the continuing US efforts to reach a comprehensive and fair peace deal for the Palestinians, in a way that contributes to stability and security in the Middle East. However, it added that any peace initiative must restore all legitimate rights of the Palestinian people through the establishment of an independent sovereign state in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to the norms of international legitimacy.

At the time, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the Israelis and Palestinians to carefully study the US vision for peace, consider all its dimensions, open channels of dialogue and resume negotiations under US auspices to reach an agreement that meets the aspirations and hopes of the two peoples for a comprehensive and fair peace, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

During this week’s meeting, the Arab League adopted Resolution No. 8522, which includes 12 items to address the Israeli annexation decision and the US support for it. There is no doubt this was a good move.

Likewise, on April 30, the ambassador of the European Union and the ambassadors of nine EU countries formally issued protests to Netanyahu and Gantz about the Israeli government’s annexation plans. This is also a positive move that reflects the general European support for the Palestinian cause.

Arabs, however, must act more urgently and more effectively, with globally influential countries such as Egypt leading the way. They could, for example, call for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the issue and its repercussions, and put to a vote a draft resolution that rejects the Israeli actions.

It is necessary for the Arabs and Palestinians to have an alternative strategy so as not to leave the way clear for Israel’s greed.

Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy

It is also possible that the good relationships that exist between some Arab capitals and Washington could be leveraged to impress on the Trump administration that Israel’s actions, if it goes ahead with the annexation, will have serious repercussions on the security and stability of the region, and will lead to unrest and tensions in the West Bank that will be difficult for anyone to control.

It is necessary for the Arabs and Palestinians to have an alternative strategy so as not to leave the way clear for Israel’s greed or unfair peace plans, because betting on rejection, denunciation and condemnation has historically robbed the Arabs of their rights rights.

  • Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide. Twitter: @ALMenawy

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