West Bank Annexation Update
By Blake Fox
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has referred to President Donald Trump as “the greatest friend” to Israel. Under the Trump presidency, the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem, recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel, and stated that it does not view Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal. Since 2019, Netanyahu has been vocal about his support for Israeli annexation of Area C of the West Bank. The Prime Minister officially named July 1, 2020, as the day in which annexation would begin, but his plan never came to fruition for a variety of reasons.
Israel’s current government exists in the form of a unity government between the Likud Party, led by Netanyahu, and the Blue and White Party, directed by Benny Gantz. Therefore, any significant political differences between the two parties puts the governing faction on thin ice. While Gantz has come out in favor of President Trump’s plan for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, which includes annexation of parts of the West Bank, he only will implement such efforts if they have international support. Further, Gantz also opposes annexation because he believes Israel currently has more pressing issues, such as handling the COVID-19 pandemic. In Israel, the pandemic has killed more than 400 people, and more than 1 million Israelis have lost their jobs for at least a period of time.
Worldwide there was also quite a lot of pressure against Israel regarding the planned annexation. For example, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, published a Hebrew op-ed in Yedioth, an Israeli newspaper, where he called on Israel’s government to halt its plans. Similarly, the European Union and Canada condemned annexation efforts. Many Arab countries, including Jordan and Egypt, warned Israel against such moves. Even members of the Trump administration, including Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz, all called on Israel to slow the process of annexation.
Right now, nobody knows what will happen in regard to Israel’s plans. However, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has hinted that Netanyahu may attempt to speed up annexation efforts as Trump continues to trail in polling against Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.