Israel and South Korea are set to conclude a free-trade agreement at the end of the month. The provisions of the deal will not extend to the West Bank and East Jerusalem (or to the Golan Heights, internationally recognized as Syrian territory). On its surface, such a caveat might seem unacceptable to Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing ministers. But these sorts of exceptions are actually highly convenient for Israel.

When South Korea differentiates between Israel and the West Bank, Israel elides international pressure on the Palestinian issue and enjoys ordinary (or mostly ordinary) relationships. South Korea and other countries like it can reap the economic, defense, and scientific benefits that ties with Israel entail while maintaining an ostensible commitment to international norms about the acquisition of territory through force of arms. It is a quintessential case of having one’s cake and eating it too, or, in Israel’s case, separating from the West Bank and annexing it too.

Agreements like the pending trade pact with South Korea or the European Union’s Horizon 2020 scientific research funding program make a neat distinction between Israel and the occupied territories. But where Israel ends and the West Bank begins is not so clear cut, a fact reinforced by the unfolding tragedy in Wadi al-Hummus.

Wadi al-Hummus is a Palestinian neighborhood in the worst kind of territorial limbo. After the Six-Day War, Israel annexed areas to East Jerusalem on a somewhat arbitrary basis. Wadi al-Hummus is physically linked to the larger village of Sur Bahir, which was absorbed into Jerusalem. However, Wadi al-Hummus was left outside the city’s expanded municipal boundaries after annexation in 1980. In the 1990s, the Oslo Accords zoned Wadi al-Hummus as part of Area A. Nominally, this made the neighborhood Palestinian Authority turf, but the construction of the Israel-West Bank barrier at the tail end of the Second Intifada cut Wadi al-Hummus off from the PA. What this means is that people living in Wadi al-Hummus have a direct physical link to Jerusalem, yet they are not automatically entitled to receive permanent residency status like other Palestinian East Jerusalemites.

Earlier this week, Israeli authorities evicted 17 people and demolished 13 buildings (including several partially complete structures) in Wadi al-Hummus. The government claims the buildings were erected in violation of military orders issued seven years ago, citing their location close to the barrier as a security issue. Israel needed a security basis to justify the demolitions in court, as its ability to interfere in Area A is relegated to military matters. In the past, Israel has largely restricted demolitions to illegal construction in East Jerusalem, the Negev, or in Area C (where building permits are nearly impossible to come by). The IDF already conducts frequent night raids in Palestinian cities, but the demolition of homes in Wadi al-Hummus — Area A — further blurs the lines between territories under PA control and those directly administered by Israel. Today, most proponents of West Bank annexation speak only of integrating Area C, but in the future, the Wadi al-Hummus precedent can be leveraged to downgrade the already limited degree of autonomy Palestinians have in the West Bank.

The forthcoming trade agreement with South Korea, like Horizon 2020, respects a line that Israel has long worked to erase and is actively obscuring in places like Wadi al-Hummus. Officials in Jerusalem should feel fortunate that for the purposes of maintaining normal or semi-normal relations, most governments seem willing to observe the legal fiction that Israel and the West Bank really are distinct entities. After all, when the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for its intervention in Ukraine, they did not restrict those penalties to Crimea or the Donbas. So far, Benjamin Netanyahu has swallowed his pride and played along. Netanyahu has, of course, supported annexation on the record, but he is also exceedingly cautious, previously staving off critics to his right who accuse him of “capitulating” to settlement exceptions. Down the road, a less circumspect prime minister may upset the status quo by reminding South Korea, the EU, and other governments like them that despite what the map says, there is only Israel between the river and the sea, an Israel that includes places like Sur Bahir and Wadi al-Hummus.