Why Netanyahu should abandon the rhetoric of Palestinian land annexation

Why Netanyahu should abandon the rhetoric of Palestinian land annexation
Israel claims annexation of areas of the West Bank and Jordan Valley will strengthen security, but analysts say it is more about exploiting key agricultural sites. (AFP)
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Updated 01 July 2020

Why Netanyahu should abandon the rhetoric of Palestinian land annexation

Why Netanyahu should abandon the rhetoric of Palestinian land annexation
  • Even Israeli experts question their prime minister’s logic of grabbing the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank
  • For Palestinians, Jordan Valley is an integral part of their future state due to its strategic location and fertile lands

AMMAN: Will the summer of 2020 see Israel make good on its threats to annex more parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley? If the US-Israeli coordination on President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan since January is any indication, the answer could very well be “yes.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during the election campaign in September 2019, said Israel will annex the Jordan Valley and impose its sovereignty over West Bank settlements for security concerns in the long run.

Around half a million Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, according to Israeli sources.

UN data show there are 31 Jewish-only settlements built in the Jordan Valley, most of which are agriculture-based, with around 8,000 settlers. Since its occupation in 1967, Israel has set up some 90 military posts in the area and forcibly evicted around 50,000 Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s declaration found support in Washington as the White House announced its much-talked-about “Vision for Peace, Prosperity and a Brighter Future for Israel and the Palestinian People.”

With Netanyahu at his side and no Palestinians in the room, Trump and his son-in-law cum senior advisor, Jared Kushner, outlined last year a detailed plan that envisioned a demilitarized Palestinian entity without East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley (with the exception of the city of Jericho). It showed all Israeli settlements and the north Dead Sea as part of Israel.

According to the Trump Peace Plan — mockingly dubbed the “deal of the century” — three land plots in the Negev desert were to be granted to Palestinians as part of a unilateral land swap.

The idea of annexation of Palestinian territories has been an integral part of Israeli planning since the June 1967 war. Shortly after Israel occupied the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza in the war, it began the process of a takeover.
 

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

The Israeli government of 1967, headed by Levi Eshkol of the Labor Party, carried out the first annexation, less than three weeks after the occupation. On June 27, 1967, the Israeli Knesset, its national legislature, decided that the “law, jurisdiction and administration of the State of Israel government shall extend to any area of ‘Eretz Israel’ it so orders.”

Therefore, Israeli law extended to cover all parts of East Jerusalem, giving civilians a legal status different from those in the rest of the Occupied Territories.

According to Khalil Tafakji, director of the Arab Studies Society in Jerusalem, the annexation and its justification took root in the first weeks of the occupation after the 1967 war. “Once they annexed East Jerusalem, they eyed other parts to incorporate with Israel,” he said.

Israel drew up many plans under its various leaders, including the Yigal Allon Jordan Valley plan, Ariel Sharon’s separation plan and Avigdor Lieberman’s plan of people exchange, said Tafakji.

“All these plans have been aimed at unpopulated lands, in true commitment to Zionist principles of wanting land without people. Ultimately, these plans, like the current one by Netanyahu, are meant to deny the Palestinians their statehood,” he told Arab News.

Israel’s initial annexation attempts were incorporated into what is known as the Allon Plan. Yigal Allon, who was an army general turned minister shortly after the 1967 war, suggested annexing most of the Jordan Valley, from the river to the eastern slopes of the West Bank hill ridge; East Jerusalem; and the Etzion bloc, a cluster of Jewish settlements located directly south of Jerusalem.

In Allon’s plan, the remaining parts of the West Bank, containing most of the Palestinian population, were to become Palestinian autonomous territory or would return to Jordan, including a corridor to Jordan through Jericho. Jordan’s King Hussein rejected the plan.

Israel’s annexation plans for the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area, according to Tafakji, “encompass over 30 per cent of the occupied West Bank.”

In 1993, under the Declaration of Principles signed between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the state of Israel at the White House, the West Bank was divided into three areas: Area A under Palestinian control; Area B under Palestinian control and Israeli security control, forming about 22 percent of the West Bank; and Area C under full Israeli control, consisting of over 60 percent of the West Bank’s 5,655-square-kilometer area.

Israel’s expansionism could mean imposing its control over the entire eastern part of the West Bank and cutting off all geographical contiguity with the rest of the territory, says Tafakji.

“The annexation is aimed at exploiting large agricultural areas and allowing Israel to invest in them, building more settlements and legalizing settler outposts, and not for security reasons as it claims, because it already has a peace agreement with Jordan,” he said.

A big stumbling block in Israel’s plans for further annexation is the Palestinian city of Jericho in the West Bank. According to Khaled Ammar, author and film producer and a long-time Jericho resident, during the historic negotiations of the Oslo Accords (1993 and 1995), Palestinian leader and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat insisted that the first leg of the Israeli army withdrawal should include all of Gaza and the Jericho governorate.

In the wake of the Oslo agreements, the Palestinians wrested back administrative control of Jericho from the Israel security over what is listed as Area A in the city as well as in the nearby water-rich Jordan Valley town of Ouja, which has a sweet water spring.

For Palestinians, the Jordan Valley, which is located in the east of the West Bank on the border with Jordan, is a vital and integral part of their future state due to its strategic location and fertile lands.
 

 

“Not only is Jericho the bridge city to Jordan and to the rest of the world, Jericho and its population have become a thorn in Israel’s side as it tries to take the land without its people,” Ammar told Arab News. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics lists the population of Jericho governorate at 52,000 Palestinians.

Though the July 1 deadline for annexation is now said to be neither “sacred” nor urgent, Israel’s intent has drawn global concern. According to a post by the BBC, the Israeli plans “could result in some 4.5% of Palestinians in the West Bank living in enclaves within the annexed territory.”

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that Israel has declared about 20 percent of the area as natural reserves, taken over large areas in the north of the Jordan Valley to build the separation wall, and used 56 percent of its area for military purposes.

A Palestinian government settlement watchdog said that any annexation would leave 19 communities in the Jordan Valley, home to 3,700 Palestinians, at risk of forced displacement or being disenfranchised.

Netanyahu, however, has said that Israeli sovereignty will not be applied to Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, and reports say the same exclusion will be extended to Palestinians in other annexed parts of the West Bank. Given Israel’s past record, there is little assurance to be found in this statement.

Twitter: @daoudkuttab


EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
Updated 20 min 25 sec ago

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal

EU sees must-not-miss chance to revive Iran nuclear deal
  • Nuclear deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago

BRUSSELS: The top European Union diplomat supervising the international agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions called Friday for a concerted effort to reinvigorate the pact even as Tehran appears to be reneging on some of its commitments.
“This is an occasion that we cannot miss,” to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters via video-link.
The deal almost collapsed after the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out three years ago, triggering crippling economic sanctions on Iran. Britain, France and Germany notably struggled to keep it alive and have been heartened by President Joe Biden’s willingness to bring the US back in.
“I am convinced as coordinator of the JCPOA that we do have diplomatic space, a diplomatic window of opportunity to dialogue” in line with Biden’s aims, Borrell said. “We need to use this opportunity and focus on solutions to bring the JCPOA back on track in order for everybody (to fulfil) their commitments.”
Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift the US sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities. It has also limited some monitoring of its activities, which the EU says are meant to help ensure that Tehran’s nuclear work is peaceful.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also reported that Iran has added 17.6 kilograms (38.8 pounds) of uranium enriched up to 20 percent to its stockpile as of Feb. 16 — far past the 3.67 percent purity allowed under the JCPOA.
Borrell said that Iran’s latest moves “are very much concerning.”

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HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
Updated 26 February 2021

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

HRW urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border
  • Shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five
BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch called on Iran Friday to investigate a deadly shooting by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel into neighboring Pakistan for excessive use of force.
Monday’s shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five, HRW said, citing Baluchi activists.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route, it added.
The action has prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in both Saravan and the Sistan-Baluchistan provincial capital Zahedan.
“The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border,” said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.
“The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights.”
Provincial deputy governor Mohammad-Hadi Marashi said Tuesday that the shooting had started from the Pakistani side of the border and one person had been killed and four wounded.
Sistan-Baluchistan province has long been a security headache for the Iranian government.
Its large ethnic Baluch population, which staddles the frontier, has made it a flashpoint for cross-border attacks on government or Shiite targets by separatists and Sunni extremists.
HRW said the lack of employment opportunities in the province had left its ethnic Baluch population few alternatives to black market trading with their fellow Baluchs across the border.
“Similar to the western provinces of Western Azerbaijan and Kurdistan (on the border with Iraq), its lack of economic opportunities has led many residents to engage in unlawful cross-border commerce with Pakistan,” the New York-based watchdog.

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
Updated 26 February 2021

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19

Israel vaccinates 50% of its population against COVID-19
  • About 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine

JERUSALEM: Israel has administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose to 50 percent of its 9.3 million population, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Friday.
Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have been included in the vaccine campaign that began on Dec 19, as part of its population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not part of the Israeli campaign.
Edelstein said 35 percent of Israel’s population had received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, putting them on course to receive a so-called “Green Pass” with access to leisure sites that the country has been gradually reopening.


Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
Updated 26 February 2021

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms

Libya’s new PM delays naming Cabinet as deadline looms
  • Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap
  • Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations

CAIRO: Libya’s newly-elected prime minister failed to name members of a much-anticipated Cabinet ahead of an expected deadline Thursday, raising questions over whether his transitional government can unite Libya’s factions.
Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was set to announce his Cabinet in a news conference from the capital, Tripoli, and send it to Libya’s House of Representatives for approval.
Instead, Dbeibah told reporters he only shared with Libyan lawmakers proposed guidelines for the selection of Cabinet members and an outline of his priorities in the coming period.
Appointing the Cabinet is part of a UN-backed transitional roadmap, which envisages holding general elections in the war-torn North African country by the end of the year.
Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two administrations: One in the east and another in the west, each supported by a vast array of militias and foreign governments.
“We are ready to submit the names (of Cabinet ministers) but we should consult among ourselves and examine candidate names meticulously,” Dbeibah told reporters in Tripoli without specifying when he will actually make the submission.
Dbeibah said he envisages a Cabinet of technocrats who would represent Libya’s different geographic areas and social segments.
“These are critical times and we are taking into consideration that the Cabinet must genuinely achieve national unity and seek consensus and reconciliation,” he said.
He added that the country’s sovereign ministerial portfolios should be equally divided between candidates from Libya’s three key geographic areas in the east, the west and the south.
Earlier this month, Dbeibah was elected as prime minister by Libyan delegates at a UN-sponsored conference near Geneva.
The 75-member Libyan Political Dialogue Forum also elected a three-member Presidential Council, which along with Dbeibah should lead the country through general elections on December 24. Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east, was selected as chairman of the council.


Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
Updated 26 February 2021

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures

Bahrain introduces fifth vaccine, extends COVID-19 safety measures
  • The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19
  • The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures

DUBAI: Bahrain’s National Health Regulatory Authority (NHRA) has authorized the use of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine for coronavirus the Bahrain News Agency reported on Friday.

The Janssen Covid-19 Vaccine will be the fifth vaccine authorized in Bahrain in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and will be given to those most at risk, suchas the elderly, people with chronic diseases and other groups identified by the Health Ministry.

The announcement comes as the Government Executive Committee extended precautionary measures, aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, for an additional three months.

The measures involve the continued enforcement of  social distancing and screening of people at commercial and industrial premises for a further three months.