As early as July 1st next week, the new Israeli government could start seizing control of vast swathes of the West Bank. Imposing Israeli sovereignty on land that belongs to the Palestinians presents not only a threat to Palestinian livelihood, but also Israelis and diaspora Jews.
In the face of this dramatic move, the silence from our community’s leadership has been deafening. Despite mounting evidence that clearly shows the strong opposition to annexation within our community, our leaders are failing to speak up. Whilst our community leaders have failed to speak up and condemn such abuses of human rights and violations of international law, we believe it is our duty to do so.
That’s why a diverse group of British Jews from across the community – left, right, religious and not – are now standing up and unequivocally denouncing Netanyahu’s annexation plans. So far, we have amassed support on social media platforms from over 1000 people, submitted a letter to the Board of Deputies with over 500 signatures and raised close to £3000 for Israeli organisations that are fighting to stop annexation and achieve real peace. The support to our campaign demonstrates that the mainstream of Anglo Jewry opposes annexation, a move that both contradicts and undermines the only solution an overwhelming majority of British Jews support: a two-state solution.
For Palestinians, annexation means that Israel’s formally rejects the mutually negotiated Oslo borders. This move would destroy the prospect of Palestinian self-determination as land that was destined for a future Palestinian state would be absorbed into modern day Israel. It renders the viability of a Palestinian state almost impossible .
Though Palestinians currently living in the West Bank already live under Israel’s military rule, annexation would be much more than just a symbolic change, it would have grave consequences on their day-to-day life. As a recent report by the Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din shows, annexation would have a major impact on the human rights of Palestinian. Their freedom of movement within the West Bank will be curtailed, the possibility of travelling abroad will be made harder, homes will be demolished and property rights violated as many become displaced. We can also expect to see an increase in the systemic abuse of Palestinians as clashes increase and intensify as resistance grows to exclusive Israeli control.
But annexation does not only present a risk for Palestinians. Former Israeli military and intelligence officials have warned of the significant threat of such plans for Israel. It is likely to spark a new wave of uprisings across the West Bank and Gaza, prompting widespread destabilisation and inevitable military action. The weakening of the Palestinian Authority will bring to an end the essential security cooperation with Israel – one of Israel’s most important strategic assets today.
The plans will also alienate Israel from its international allies. Annexation has been condemned across the world as a clear violation of International Law. Severing such ties and prompting potential economic sanctions is not sustainable for Israel’s future. It will present a real threat to its legitimacy and an estimated cost of $2.5 billion in foreign investment per year. Furthermore, Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbours, Egypt and Jordan, are likely to be jeopardised, leaving the country more vulnerable to hostile nations such as Turkey and Iran. The diplomatic ramifications are seemingly insurmountable, as Israel faces adopting a ‘rogue nation status’.
In summary, a study undertaken by Commanders for Israel’s Security – a group of close to 300 former commanders and generals – concluded that ‘the damage to Israel’s interests in the security, diplomatic, economic, legal and domestic spheres will be unprecedented. This process will jeopardise the viability of the Zionist vision’.
Israeli security experts, human rights advocates and international allies are not the outliers when it comes to annexation. A recent poll of Israeli public opinion shows that the majority of the Israeli public do not support Netanyahu’s annexation plans and just 3.5% say thought annexation should be top government priority compared to 69% who said it should be the economy.
The evidence is clear: the economic, legal and human catastrophe that these plans will unleash is unprecedented. What remains ambiguous however, is our communal leaders’ standing on this fundamental question. As a community which is deeply connected to, and care for, the Jewish homeland, we cannot afford to remain silent in the face of the grave danger of annexation. There is still time for our communal leadership to do the right thing and say #NoToAnnexation.