ANALYSIS:The coming tempest in a teapot over Israeli sovereignty in the 'West Bank'

There is rising criticism in Israel, but it looks as though the Arab countries will do nothing against a sovereignty move.

Yochanan Visser ,

Jordan Valley Greenhouses
Jordan Valley Greenhouses
Hagai Huberman
Israel is gearing up preparations to apply Israeli law in 30 percent of what the international community calls “the West Bank”, Judea and Samaria as well as the whole Jordan Valley.

Incoming Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz, the head of the Blue and White party, has ordered the Israel Defense Forces and the internal security service Shin Bet to prepare for every scenario after Israel implements Israeli law in these areas.

The Palestinian Authority leadership, meanwhile, is trying to get world-support for measures that would put pressure on Israel not to go ahead with the move which has the full backing of the US government of President Donald J. Trump.

Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner, one of the main architects of what the President dubbed “the deal of the century,” is in constant contact with Israeli leaders about the controversial move which is expected to take effect at the beginning of July.

The final map detailing exact lines of the territories that will now become officially part of Israel is reportedly ready and has already been criticized by local Jewish leaders in Judea and Samaria.

They fear that at least five and up to 15 Jewish villages and towns will be cut off from the rest of Israel or that, as is the case of some villages in southern Judea, residents can only reach other places in Israel via checkpoints on the way to Be'er Sheva and not via highway 60 to Jerusalem.

Another point of friction is the establishment of a Palestinian state in the remaining 70 percent of Judea and Samaria. Local Jewish leaders in Judea and Samaria but also members of rightwing parties such as Yamina are vehemently against the forming of such a state since they view it as a direct security threat to the State of Israel.

PM Netanyahu, on the other hand, says that there is now “a historic opportunity” for the implementation of Israeli law in Judea and Samaria “that must not be missed.”

Netanyahu reassured the local Jewish leaders and said that there are ongoing deliberations on the issue with officials of the Trump Administration, but also pointed out that Israel is committed to the guidelines laid out in the peace plan.

As for the expected international outrage? Israel has been there before when it annexed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights at the beginning of the 1980s.

At the time, Menachem Begin was Prime Minister of Israel and he used the international focus on an emerging conflict between Russia and Poland over the rise of the Solidarity Movement to proceed quickly with the annexation.

Begin held initial readings of the annexation bill and a vote on the issue in the Knesset in one day. At the end of that day the bill became law and the annexation of the Golan Heights was a fact.

The same could happen now with the increasing Corona pandemic catching the world’s attention and with much of the world in disarray because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Then there are the moderate Arab states which are publicly condemning the Israeli-American plan to allow for applying Israeli law in 30 percent of the so-called 'West Bank,' but in private couldn't care less about the intended move.

It is correct that the United Arab Emirates are now suddenly expressing reservations or even condemnations about the intended move, but the Arab countries have much greater concerns than the Palestinian Arab issue at the moment.

Most of these countries are dealing with a belated Corona outbreak and are more concerned about the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran in parts of the Middle East. They know that Israel and the US are spearheading the effort to stop Iran from taking over Arab countries in a plan to establish a Shiite crescent.

In this respect, it is interesting to watch what Saudi Arabia is doing with Israel at the moment.

The Saudis are reportedly talking with Israel about a form of participation in the Waqf, the Islamic trustee that is in charge of controlling the daily affairs on the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia’s talks with Israel about the Temple Mount are meant to counter the growing influence of Turkey over the Waqf and the Palestinian Arabs.

Turkey’s autocratic Islamist leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan is vehemently against Trump’s vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinan Arabs and is encouraging and actively supporting the process that aims to turn the Palestinian Authority into another Islamist entity.

Then there is the European Union that already has condemned the US-Israeli plan to apply Israeli law in 30 percent of Judea, Samaria and the whole Jordan Valley. The EU, however, has proven to be divided on the Palestinian-Israeli issue recently with mainly eastern European countries supporting Israel’s position on the conflict.

The lack of unity within the EU, as well as the fact that the organization is pre-occupied with the huge Corona crisis in key European states, will most likely hamper efforts by pro-Palestinian countries to impose sanctions on Israel.

Finally, there is Jordan, which has already announced that implementing Israeli law in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley might have consequences for the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.

King Abdullah II, however, will think twice before he cancels the peace agreement with Israel because he’s dealing with huge economic problems and internal unrest in Jordan.

The King needs American aid more than ever and will not risk a confrontation with the Trump Administration over the implementation of Israeli sovereignty in the aforementioned areas.

Abdullah has always walked a thin line when it came to Israeli actions vis a vis the Palestinian Arabs whom he doesn’t like and will preserve the peace treaty with the Jewish state because it serves his personal interests - such as remaining the ruler of Jordan.

The most important feature of the implementation of this part of Trump’s vision for peace is that it is a reversal of all other peace initiatives, which were based on the land for peace principle.

Israel has always been pressured to concede parts of the land of Israel that were designated to be part of the national home for the Jewish people by the League of Nations hundred years ago.

This time around, however, the Palestinian Arabs will have to concede parts of their maximalist demands if they ever want to establish some kind of (demilitarized) state of their own.