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Annexation of West Bank May Provide Key to Unlocking Netanyahu’s Legal Troubles
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After winning the Israeli election with a slim majority, in a campaign that grew more sordid and vilifying by the day, Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to begin his fifth term as Israeli prime minister.

The culmination of his dirty tricks campaign was an election-day stunt in which his Likud party broke regulations – and possibly the law – by arming 1,200 activists with hidden cameras, to film polling stations in communities belonging to Israel’s large Palestinian minority.

Netanyahu justified the move by saying it would ensure the election was “kosher”. Yet again, Israel’s prime minister made it clear that the country’s 1.7 million Palestinian citizens were unwelcome interlopers in what he regards as an exclusively Jewish political process.

The PR firm behind the stunt admitted another motive. The goal was for the cameras to be quickly discovered by police and thereby scare the one in five citizens who are Palestinian into staying home. A low turnout by Palestinian voters in Israel would ensure a stronger parliamentary majority for Netanyahu’s coalition.

In fact, slightly less than half of the minority cast a ballot, although the reason was probably as much down to their exasperation at a series of ever more right-wing Netanyahu governments as it was a fear of surveillance at polling stations.

When coalition negotiations this week are complete, Netanyahu is likely to head the most ultra-nationalist government in Israel’s history – one even more extreme than his last one.

His coalition, comprising settler factions and religious fundamentalists, will even include a party hosting political refugees from the previously outlawed Kach party – anti-Arab racists banned in the US as a terror organisation.

The official opposition will be the Blue and White party led by a group of hawkish former generals – assuming Netanyahu doesn’t try to lure former army chief of staff Benny Gantz into a national unity government of the right.

In Washington, Netanyahu can rely on the full-throated support of Donald Trump’s administration.

In other words, Netanyahu will face no serious domestic or international obstacles as he implements the agenda of the right. He will entrench control over the last fragments of what was once assumed to be an emerging Palestinian state and he will step up attacks on the rights of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, in line with the Nation-State Basic Law he passed last summer.

The biggest trouble facing Netanyahu once he forms a new government will not be political but legal.

During the election campaign, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, announced that Netanyahu would soon be indicted on a series of corruption charges.

The delay is largely a formality, giving the prime minister a final chance to defend himself at a special hearing. In the meantime, Netanyahu hopes he can find a way to ride out the charges.

One option is simply to drag out any trial, insisting it be deferred indefinitely on the grounds that he needs to focus on pressing matters of state. At the same time, he can rile up supporters and intimidate the judiciary by claiming that the courts are trying to overturn the will of the people.

The other option is to arm-twist his coalition partners into agreeing a retroactive immunity law making it impossible for prosecutors to indict the prime minister while in office. Some of his coalition partners are already on board.

How he might achieve this feat is through an “annexation for immunity” deal. In other words, Netanyahu gives the far-right and the settlers what they want – annexation of parts or all of the West Bank – and in return, they back immunity legislation.

That was why Netanyahu made an unexpected statement in favour of annexation shortly before polling.

Asked about the pressure for annexation from his coalition partners, he told the media: “We will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.”

Netanyahu has previously rejected formally annexing the West Bank, but not on moral or ideological grounds.

He demurred largely because annexation would bring him grief in western capitals and risk provoking a Palestinian civil rights struggle that might attract global sympathy. In any case, he regards such a step as unnecessary, given that Israel has already annexed the West Bank in all but name.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu would prefer to stay out of the dock. And of late, the stars have been aligning in favour of some kind of annexation.

The world is losing interest in the Palestinian cause, given that it has been presented as intractable by western leaders and there are battles closer to home for many of them.

Trump has shown he will sanction just about any Israeli violation of Palestinian rights if it panders to his Christian evangelical base. And the US president has set a useful precedent for Netanayhu in recently recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of the occupied Golan Heights. The principle of victor-takes-all has been established in Washington.

The question, therefore, is increasingly not whether, but what kind of, annexation Netanyahu plans.

It will most likely be done in stages and not referred to as annexation but rather, “extending Israeli sovereignty”. Large settlements close to Jerusalem such as Maale Adumim and the Gush Etzion bloc might be first.

But ultimately, Netanyahu’s political allies want most of Area C, the two-thirds of the West Bank designated in the Oslo accords as under temporary Israeli control.

This is the most prized territory, including water aquifers and agricultural land. And better still for the Israelis, after decades of administrative ethnic cleansing, it has few Palestinians left there.

Trump was shameless in helping Netanyahu during the election campaign and there is no reason to believe he will get tougher now. His so-called peace plan, if it is finally unveiled after the election, as promised, might make annexation of parts of the West Bank its centrepiece, dressed up as a solution to final-status issues.

Was the Golan Heights debacle a warm-up act, laying the groundwork for an even more audacious move from Trump to save Netanyahu’s skin? We may find out soon enough.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

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Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His books include “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel/Palestine 
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  1. A123 says:

    There are a number of problems with the article.

    Let us start by correcting the headline to be fact based rather than myth based. Proper construction and usage of the English language does not allow for the use of the term ‘annex’ to describe keeping something that legally belongs to a party. If the author insists on using the term ‘annex’ the English language headline must read:

    Preventing Muslim Annexation of Judea and Samaria May Provide Key to Unlocking Netanyahu’s Troubles with ‘Fake Left Psuedo-Law’

    _____

    Some additional background on Israel is required. Israel does not have a unified constitution. The nation has ‘basic law’ components that are not fully unified. The ‘basic law’ for the judiciary is inherently anti-democratic (1).

    The Judicial Selection Committee is made up of nine representatives: Two ministers, two Knesset members, three judges, and two representatives of the Israel Bar Association. The “Saar law” which passed a decade ago stated that the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court requires a majority of seven out of nine members of the committee.

    This rule allows the existing bench of ultra-left judges to veto appointments of new judges that do not subscribe to their authoritarian, anti-democratic, and extremist viewpoints.

    To defeat extremists masquerading as ‘law’ Netanyahu must assemble a coalition capable of protecting Israeli democracy from unelected, corrupt judges. Recognizing the Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria as an unseverable part of Jewish Palestine (a.k.a. Israel) is necessary to build and maintain the coalition.

    ______

    (1) https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/2018/03/israels-judicial-tyranny-is-beginning-to-unravel/

  2. Sean says:

    Full annexation will make expulsion of the Arabs inevitable.

  3. Blame it on the evangelical. This is an article by just another lying,,,

  4. His coalition, comprising settler factions and religious fundamentalists, will even include a party hosting political refugees from the previously outlawed Kach party – anti-Arab racists banned in the US as a terror organisation.

    Kahane’s party — the Israeli counterpart to his US-based Zionist terrorist organization, the JDL.

    Trump has shown he will sanction just about any Israeli violation of Palestinian rights if it panders to his Christian evangelical base.

    Trump’s top 3 donors are:
    1. Sheldon Adelson
    2. Paul Singer
    3. Bernard Marcus
    Are any of these 3 individuals “evangelical Christians?”
    Or is there some other aspect of their identity/ heritage that they have in common?

    Some might even go so far as to characterize the common leftist claim that fanatical GOP Israeli-Firstism is driven by evangelical Christians as a “long-debunked semitic canard.”

    Note also the alternative. Hillary’s top donor was that notorious “evangelical Christian,” Haim Saban. Is there a significant difference between “leftist” megadonor Saban and “conservative” megadonor Adelson when it comes to issues like Zionism/ Greater Israel/ destroying Iran? Or are they both acting primarily as ethnic activists, rather than as ideologically-driven “philanthropists?”
    A lot of other “evangelical Christians” among Hillary’s top donors, too.

    https://www.haaretz.com/world-news/top-five-clinton-donors-are-jewish-campaign-tally-shows-1.5453781

  5. anon[359] • Disclaimer says:

    The world is losing interest in the Palestinian cause, given that it has been presented as intractable by western leaders and there are battles closer to home for many of them.

    not the feeling i get

    btw “western leaders” lie

  6. Clearly, you don’t understand how politics really work. The fact that it is being “talked about” or “considered” means the decision has already been made – it’s a done deal. The only question is: when? Now, comes the kabuki theater to justify it.

    While the primarily (((Western liberal democracy))) ZOGs may be losing interest in the Palestinian cause, I don’t think that reflects the thinking citizens in those ZOG countries or “the world” losing interest.

  7. “The principle of victor-takes-all ” is one of the constants of history. America’s existence as an independent political entity was established by military victory over British troops. One could hardly expect America to repudiate the principle which created it, and indeed one would expect it to go along with further instances of it such as in Israel.

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