Left takes Netanyahu annexation plan seriously: ‘He’s a different person now’

Peace Now leader says that after decades of right-wing governments not imposing sovereignty over settlements, they are taking Netanyahu’s vow to annex settlements “very seriously.”

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Left-wing opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are coming to grips with the concept that he may indeed annex parts of Judea and Samaria, Haaretz reported Monday.

Except for asserting rule over Jerusalem, no Israeli government has taken the decision to impose Israeli sovereignty on lands captured from Jordan in the 1967 war even after the right-wing first came to power in 1977 under Menachem Begin.

It appears now that Netanyahu will finally act on previous promises to annex not all of Judea and Samaria, but the Israeli settlements there – roughly 30 percent of the territory.

“We are taking this very seriously because we understand that Bibi [Netanyahu] is a different person now,” Peace Now director Shaqued Morag told Haaretz.

“In the past, he might have considered annexation an irresponsible move and been more cautious – but not these days,” Morag said. “Today, what motivates him is his legal and political survival.”

Netanyahu’s insistence on adding a clause about the annexation into the coalition agreement proved it was more than just a campaign promise, she says.

“I’m convinced that if he believes there is a window of opportunity to do this now while Trump is still in power, he will go for it,” said Morag, whose organization supports a two-state solution.

Although successive Likud-led governments have always proclaimed Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria, they have until now stopped short of formally imposing sovereignty that could open up a diplomatic can of worms.

Over the weekend, Axios reported that the White House told Israel it will support the annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria if the Jewish state agrees to the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan—the “Peace to Prosperity” vision, which includes the creation of a Palestinian state.

The chairman of the Yesha settlement council, David Elhayani, told Haaretz he is confident Netanyahu will stand by his promise.

“I think the chances are good – in fact, very good – that the prime minister will fulfill his commitments of the past year,” Elhayani said, adding he was reassured by comments from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that annexing settlements was “ultimately Israel’s decision to make.”

Last month European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell warned Israel the EU did not want unilateral Israeli annexation under any circumstances.

“The European Union reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law,” Borrell said. “The European Union will continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”

The Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University said Sunday the response to annexation could go either way, especially with world attention diverted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“There are two contradictory assessments … of potential responses to Israel carrying out unilateral annexation. One holds that nothing dramatic will occur, just as the earth did not shake in response to the U.S. moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – despite many fears and warnings of potential consequences,” INSS managing director Udi Dekel and research director Anat Kurtz wrote.

“The second assessment takes Palestinian spokespeople’s threats of a severe response seriously,” they said.

“It expects any act of annexation to generate a determined and violent Palestinian response, including terror attacks and riots and additional serious consequences,” such as damage to the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, international condemnation “and the potential imposition of sanctions and boycotts.”