Netanyahu mulls staged annexation plan as pressure builds

The presumed advantage of breaking annexation into two stages is that it will signal that Israel is paying attention to international concerns. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering a two-stage approach to annexation over parts of Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, Hebrew media reported on Wednesday.

The presumed advantage of breaking annexation into two stages is that it will signal that Israel is paying attention to international concerns.

The plan, which is in its initial stages, calls for Israel to extend sovereignty over smaller, more isolated settlements first. Those settlements would exist in bubbles or enclaves surrounded by areas with large Arab populations according to the Trump map.

The purpose of focusing on these settlements is to take off the table the possibility that they’ll be uprooted in the future, as happened to the settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, in which some 8,000 Jewish residents were booted from their homes.

Israel will then wait a period and invite the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. If the Palestinians continue to refuse – the Palestinian Authority has cut off all formal ties with Israel and the U.S. – then Israel will implement stage two and extend sovereignty over the rest of the areas permitted by the Trump plan.

The plan allows Israel to annex sovereignty over 30 percent of territory in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. The region within Judea and Samaria that may be annexed amounts to 10-13 percent of the territory. The other roughly 20 percent is in the Jordan Valley.

The plan has come under intense criticism from the EU and Arab states. Most recently, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticized annexation as illegal under international law.

However, Israel Hayom reports that it isn’t the criticism that is causing Netanyahu to reevaluate the plan’s implementation. According to the paper, he doesn’t fear EU or Arab reaction. His decision has more to do with other difficulties that the plan has run into, though the report didn’t specify.

Netanyahu has struggled with getting his coalition partner, Blue and White, on board with annexation, reports say. And he has faced resistance from a surprising corner – a number of prominent settlement leaders who oppose the idea of agreeing to the creation  of a Palestinian state, even as they benefit from annexation.

Settlement leaders against the plan have drawn three red lines: 1) No Palestinian state 2) No freeze on building 3) No isolated enclaves. They have spoken of increasing the amount of land Israel annexes to 40 percent if Netanyahu wants their support. Most of that would go to expanding the enclaves in which the isolated settlements exist.