The closer we get to the 1st of July, the designated due date for annexation, the shriller the public dialogue on the subject. The reason is clear, time flies but our government makes no attempt whatsoever to clarify the many uncertainties regarding the particular annexation it intends to implement. At the same time civil society and security elements in Israel and abroad publish worrisome predictions and threats about the looming disaster.
As part of the political effort to counteract annexation and empower its opponents, more and more use is made of the A word that describes the political reality in South Africa from 1948 until the early 1990s. The premise is that Israel will annex certain areas in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, extend Israeli law to these areas but will not extend citizenship to local Palestinians who will remain Palestinian subjects, whatever that means. There is certainly no Palestinian sovereignty and what the Trump plan really suggests is Palestinian autonomy within an enlarged Israel. Upon implementation we would in fact arrive at a situation where West Bank Palestinians live under Israeli sovereignty with no ability to vote in Israeli elections. Hence the use of the A word since the situation would describe one central aspect of South Africa’s previous regime where the indigenous local population was not able to vote in general elections but only in certain specified areas, “Bantustans”, for the local government of those particular areas.
Unfortunately, as of yet, our government has made no effort to counteract these claims and has not unequivocally stated that Palestinians who live in the annexed areas will in fact get full Israeli citizenship or even residency. That despite the fact that the number of Palestinians in the potential areas of annexation is small and meaningless in the framework of the demography of Israel. The unwillingness of Israel’s government to be clear on this issue, further strengthens the concern of those who think that the use of the A word is warranted under these circumstances.
Israelis by and large find the use of the A word extremely offensive and are not beyond freaking out when hearing it. They will spend hours arguing how ludicrous its use is and how dare one compare us with South Africa’s former regime. Nevertheless they won’t really argue over the realities on the ground: Fact is that there will be Palestinians living under Israel’s sovereignty who will be residents in some kind of Palestinian autonomy, which Israelis will claim, no end, has enough elements of statehood to make that term valid. Unfortunately, there is no indication it is. For sure, most Palestinians will have absolutely no say regarding Israel’s government. And most Israelis, by far, just have no problem with that. The reason is clear – we have been living this reality for 53 years with the occupation of Judea, Samaria and Gaza too. The only difference between pre-annexation and post-annexation is that in the annexed areas, Israel’s claim for temporariness which was somehow still tenable in the occupied areas even after 53 years, has lost all relevance. Now this will be Israel proper, like the areas within the non-existent Green Line, like the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. And Israelis could care less about Palestinians, annexed or not.
Most of those who use the A word in the context of Israel and the occupation/annexation (including the undersigned) know well enough that whatever the situation will be in the occupied or annexed territories, it is not and will hardly be anything like the situation was in South Africa. And that’s a serious problem. Why? Because the situation in South Africa was so obviously and extremely unjust, discriminatory, undemocratic and unequal that it was exceedingly difficult to find anyone supportive of that regime which incidentally didn’t prevent Israel from being just that for quite a few years. It was an evil regime that had to come down and world public opinion joined together forcing South Africa to do away with A for once and for all.
Israel’s control of the territories, be it in the framework of an occupation or an annexation doesn’t really fit the A word, rather it is far more problematic and insidious. Is it unjust? Well, there is justice. Whose justice you may ask. Well, there is a law or two, so is it unjust? Is it discriminatory? Well, the Palestinians have their own life, we’ll interfere only when necessary…Is it undemocratic? Well, the Palestinians have their own government..
Israel’s annexation plan and the Trump Plan as a whole is a massive piece of obfuscation, just what Israel loves. We will be able to claim, with a straight face, that the Palestinians have their own state ( a fake state if there ever was one), that we remain the only democracy in the Middle East while actually we keep the Palestinians disenfranchised and on a very tight leash under our sovereignty. Every once in a while, we’ll snap up another piece of Palestinian real-estate to satisfy our needs for natural and other growth and the world will look on aghast as we pull off another political stunt.
After managing an occupation for 53 years without incurring major flak and no real sanctions we will now embark on a journey into the unknown. Using the A word wouldn’t quite do it justice. While essentially we are doing pretty much the same thing, depriving the local Palestinian population of their civil rights based on their ethnicity/nationality, we do it under a nicer legalized facade and plenty of plausible deniability. Our lawyers will have their work cut out for them telling everyone how this is really democratic. A, here in Eretz Israel? Wtf are you talking about?
Let there be no doubt: The world will let us get away with it, there are too many places where the human rights situation is far worse. I just hope that if we don’t get our act together here in Israel on our own, our diaspora will force our hand. Everyone who lives under Israel’s sovereignty must have equal rights, just as it says in our Declaration of Independence.