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A misstep by the Palestinians could lead to annexation



The election results in Israel led to a stalemate, which could take several weeks. Regardless of whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retains his position, he has done something in the run-up to the elections that deserves attention. He made waves, explaining his intention to annex the Jordan Valley. Instead of rejecting this idea, Benny Gantz, the other leading representative of the Prime Minister, replied that Netanyahu copied his own positions.

With this, Netanyahu and Gantz have put the annexation on the table in a way that the next Israeli government has done. Like the United States and the Palestinians, they will have to deal with it.

The announcement was answered with predictable answers. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "If the annexation is carried out, he will be able to bury the prospect of peace for the next 1

00 years."

Something more is in the works. It is neither as catastrophic as the critics of Israel suspect nor as meaningless as the political cynics believe.

The Trump administration has signaled its intention to unveil its peace plan soon. Netanyahu said he would pursue his annexation plans in coordination with Trump. Yet, after hearing the Netanyahu plan, the government said there was "no change in US policy." This policy does not include the Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley. What's happening?

Trump opponents conclude that there is a backroom deal in which he gave Netanyahu the green light to annex. That's unlikely.

It is more likely that the Israelis are fighting for their position in anticipation of the introduction of the plan. After all, the annexation in Israeli history is not unprecedented.

After the 1967 war, Israel immediately annexed the part of Jerusalem that it did not control after its independence in 1948. While Israeli sovereignty over the unified Jerusalem remains controversial in the halls of the United Nations, it's not a bit controversial in Israel's political system. There is no peace agreement under which an Israeli government would give it up. President Trump recognized this reality in 2017 when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

14 years after the war, Israel annexed the Golan Heights in 1981. This March Trump recognized the Golan as Israeli territory. The answer of the international community was a collective yawn. No one believes that peace would have served well in the Middle East if Syria's barbaric Assad regime resumed control of that territory.

The West Bank is different. Israel has been managing this area for 52 years without annexing it. In the broad brush there are three options for this country. Option one is a form of Palestinian sovereignty. Option two is the continuation of the status quo. Option three is the Israeli annexation of parts that either have significant strategic value or that host hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens.

Included is the peace plan of Trump. The US policy has not changed, but it will change soon. Whatever the content of the plan, it will certainly be a change in the status quo, and possibly a major change. The Trump administration will soon recommend the status quo option. Netanyahu and others in the Israeli political system are pushing for the option of annexation.

What are the Palestinians doing?

The Palestinian demand for an independent state throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital is a non-starter for Israel. However, like the US, the Palestinians do not prefer the status quo; They just prefer it to an Israeli annexation. Given this plethora of factors, it would be wise for the Palestinians to seriously discuss the Trump Plan, if only to forestall Israeli annexation.

Yet the Palestinians are not inclined to get involved.

When Trump announced the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, he made it clear that this move neither anticipates the final borders of Jerusalem nor excludes a future Palestinian state. The decision of Jerusalem was undoubtedly a setback for the Palestinian hopes, but it was also a crucial turning point in which they had to make a decision. You have made a bad choice.

They could have basically argued, "We disagree with this American decision, but we are ready to take the President to the floor and discuss the final borders with him and the Israelis. Jerusalem and the contours of one Palestinian state. "

Instead, the Palestinian leadership decided to interrupt any communication with the Trump administration. Instead of stopping the Trump movement, this decision encouraged additional decisions to end US aid to the Palestinians and close the Palestinian office in Washington.

Palestinian leaders face another turning point. If they welcome the Trump Plan with the same disdain as the decision of Jerusalem, they could end up in an even worse position. Trump officials have said that their plan will include some things that all parties like and some that all dislike. If the Palestinians refuse to get involved in a proposal that gives them something they want, they may only get the annexation they fear.

After 52 years of waiting, in the absence of a partner showing the least amount of negotiation, many inside and outside the Trump administration will not accuse the Israelis of continuing.

Jon Lerner is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and was United Nations Deputy Ambassador, Nikki Haley, 2017-2018.


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