AMMAN: Arab countries could stop Israeli plans to annex land in the occupied territories by exploiting a loophole in an agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benjamin Gantz.
An unofficial translation of two items in the Netanyahu-Gantz unity plan was obtained by Arab News. It says that Israel must preserve existing peace agreements.
Israel has peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. The one with Egypt dates back to 1979, and it was the first to be signed with an Arab country. The agreement with Jordan was signed in 1994.
The Netanyahu-Gantz unity plan is intended to establish an emergency government after a year of political deadlock, and gives conditional support to annexation as early as July 1. It was signed on April 20.
Items 28 and 29 in the unity plan say: “In reference to the declaration of President Donald Trump, the PM and Alternate PM will act with the full consent of the US, including in the matter of maps vis-a-vis the Americans and in international dialogue on the matter, all while pursuing to preserve the security and strategic interests of the state of Israel including the need to keep regional stability, keep existing peace agreements and pursuing future peace agreements.”
If Jordan and Egypt were to suspend their peace treaties with Israel it would be — according to the unity plan — a reason not to go ahead with the annexation. The plan says a condition for annexation is that regional relations or peace agreements should not be adversely affected.
Wadie Abunassar, the director of Haifa-based International Center for Consultations, said that Jordan and Egypt could put their peace treaties with Israel on the table and put a stop to the “madness of the far-right wing” in Israel.
Hani Al-Masri is director-general of Masarat, the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies. He said there was an opportunity for Arab influence to stop the annexation. “I agree that this loophole can be used, but this requires a unified and effective Palestinian strategy that can encourage Jordan, Egypt, Arabs, Europe, China and Russia and all supporters of the Palestinian cause to move in a serious way to stop it,” he told Arab News.
Netanyahu said in February that Israel had begun drawing up maps for annexing land in the West Bank, which Palestinians seek for a state, in accordance with Trump’s proposed peace plan. The president’s blueprint gave Israel much of what it has long sought, including US recognition of settlements and Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.
Brian Reeves, a spokesman for the NGO Peace Now, warned that annexation would have a serious impact on regional dynamics. “Annexation will lead to unprecedented damage to relations with Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel has signed a peace treaty and cannot come to terms with unilateral annexation,” he told Arab News.
Annexation proposals have also alarmed J Street, a US-based lobbying group which describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace. It said that annexation would be “disastrous” for Israel’s interests as well as a violation of Palestinian rights.
“Any annexation would be carried out with the deliberate intention of preventing the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It would be disastrous for Israel’s interests as well as a gross violation of Palestinian rights,” the group said in a statement.