Next week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces his second election of the year, having failed to form a coalition government in his first attempt back in April 2019.
While his party, the Likud, won 35 seats; he was unable to form a coalition to take him over the required 61 seat threshold in the 120-seat Knesset to be able to form a government.
This failure happened despite US President Donald Trump recognising the Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel, shortly before the elections, in what analysts saw as Trump’s election gift to his preferred candidate for prime minister.
The international community rejected this move, and there was no action to reverse the decision despite the Golan being seen by successive US governments and almost all other states, except Israel, as illegally occupied Syrian territory.
The need for a second election resulted in the postponement of the release of US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, the ‘deal of the century’, which was promised shortly after the formation of an Israeli government.
If the plan—now rebranded a ‘vision for peace’—is to see the light of day, then Trump has promised to release it after the formation of the Israeli government.
However, Netanyahu will not wait until the elections to extract more gifts from Trump to help him secure the result he craves. In June, US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman announced his support for Israel’s possible annexation of parts of the West Bank, saying, “Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank.”
Perhaps, Friedman, who is a staunch supporter of Israel and the settlement enterprise, knew more at the time. Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced that if elected, he would apply "Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea," a policy sure to be backed by right-wing parties whose support he needs to build a coalition. This would constitute annexing one-third of the illegally occupied West Bank. However, it would not include any Palestinian cities such as Jericho, leaving them under military rule.
Netanyahu stated, “I believe we have a unique one-off opportunity to do something for which there is wide consensus to finally create secure, permanent borders for the state of Israel”.
Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian official, said if Mr Netanyahu went ahead “he will have buried any chance for peace for the next 100 years. Israelis and the international community must stop this insanity.”
Fellow PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi tweeted “Netanyahu’s cheap pandering to his extremist racist base exposes his real political agenda of superimposing “greater Israel” on all of historical Palestine & carrying out an ethnic cleansing agenda. All bets are off! Dangerous aggression. Perpetual conflict.”
However, no immediate action was announced by the Palestine Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority to counter what surely is the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution.
The Arab League said Mr Netanyahu's plan was a "dangerous development" that would violate international law and "torpedo" the foundations of peace.
Jordan's Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, called the plan a "serious escalation" and warned it could "push the whole region towards violence."
Turkey's Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, described the pledge as "racist" and criticised Mr Netanyahu for "giving all kind of illegal, unlawful and aggressive messages" before the election.
Even Saudi Arabia—which has been cosying up to Israel—flagged the announcement as a "dangerous escalation", and convened an "emergency meeting" of the foreign ministers of the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah on Sunday to discuss the issue.
An annexation would leave Jerusalem and Gaza disconnected from what remains of the West Bank. It also finally defines Israel’s external borders as extending over the whole of historic Palestine, except for a quasi non-Israeli border between Egypt and the Gaza strip. It, therefore, deprives Palestine of any border with the outside world, placing Palestinians under perpetual occupation forever.
A third part of the annexed territory was always seen as the land bank for Palestinian growth and development. With that gone, how can the population and economy grow?
It also makes a mockery of the ‘peace to prosperity’ workshop, held in Manama Bahrain only last June. Who would be willing to invest in projects in an entity, Palestine, not in control of its borders, airspace, and natural resources and in which freedom of movement is a misnomer.
The much-touted concept of a two-state solution in which Palestine and Israel exist side by side would at best be one state inside another state. I say at best because Israel has no desire to allow an entity to emerge called Palestine.
In August this year, 22 Members of the Knesset wrote to US Congress arguing, the “Two-State Solution,’ meaning the establishment of a ‘Palestinian state’ in the heart of tiny Israel… We would like to make our position clear that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be far more dangerous to Israel than BDS.”
As Netanyahu makes announcements that break international law to gain electoral advantage and the world fails to rein him in, the Palestinians must no re-evaluate their strategy for liberation. Their leadership must put away the trappings of statehood, and end all cooperation with their occupier and oppressor.
If Israel does not recognise that the Palestinians are a people, with rights, and acknowledge their desire for statehood, then it is time surely for the PLO to withdraw recognition of Israel in accordance with the resolutions made by the Palestine National Council and Palestine Central Council.
It is time it implemented the other resolutions taken by these bodies, including the end of security cooperation, which delivers no security to Palestinians.
It is time the Palestinian leadership admitted its failure and handed the reigns to the next generation of capable Palestinians both in historic Palestine and the diaspora. If not now, then when?
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