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What is West Bank Annexation?

Annexation refers to the process by which some Israeli officials aim to officially incorporate the West Bank, in whole or in part, into the State of Israel. Currently the West Bank is held by Israel “in belligerent occupation,” according to the Israeli High Court. Accordingly, Jewish settlers in the West Bank are technically subject to military administration, with Knesset legislation being siphoned through the military government in the territories. The Knesset has also passed legislation applying Israeli criminal law for Jewish settlers, alongside several other similar actions. Some isolated settlements, illegal under Israeli law, have been retroactively legalized. In other cases, Palestinian homes built without permit have been demolished by Israeli authorities. These gradual processes are referred to as “creeping annexation.”

The aim of the pro-annexation camp is to change the present situation in which the West Bank (particularly Area C, which accounts for 60 percent of the territory and is home to the Israeli settlements and 300,000 Palestinians) technically not part of the State of Israel. This would involve the full application of Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to individual settlements, the entirety of Area C, or, under more extreme proposals, larger portions of the West Bank presently under Palestinian Authority control. This is in contrast with the current situation, in which the physical settlements and the land they sit on are subject to military law but civilian law is applied to the settlers themselves via an extraterritorial legal regime.

Annexation is now supported by many segments of the mainstream Israeli right, including by officials and parties with representation in the last government. The Likud Central Committee voted to endorse the application of civilian law to the settlements in 2017, and prominent figures from that party, such as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, have spoken publicly in favor of such a move. In the lead up to the 2019 Knesset elections, all Likud MKs seeking re-election, including Benjamin Netanyahu, endorsed annexation in some form. West Bank annexation is also a major policy point for the constituent factions of the Union of Right-Wing Parties.

A network of right-wing NGOs support and lobby these public officials to ensure annexation climbs to the top of the Israeli national agenda. The Sovereignty Movement was partly responsible for rallying support in the Likud Central Committee to endorse the application of civilian law in Area C. Regavim, a group co-founded by MK Bezalel Smotrich, works to oppose Palestinian construction in the West Bank, as well as Bedouin construction inside Israel.

Annexation threatens to impose serious security, economic, institutional, and political problems on Israel. With at least 60 percent of the West Bank (Area C) officially absorbed to Israel, the Palestinian Authority may abandon any pretense of supporting a two-state solution (its raison d’etre as a transitional entity), precipitating its demise and the collapse of its security forces, which presently coordinate with Israeli forces. This would force Israeli forces to assume a policing function in dense Palestinian urban centers, most of which have been under PA control for over two decades. Meanwhile, rogue remnants of the PA Security Forces could pose a serious terror threat.

If Israel annexes the West Bank in part or in whole, it will also have to restore basic services previously provided by the PA. The alternative is to face a humanitarian catastrophe. Bringing the West Bank’s nearly three million Palestinians into the Israeli social services system will create a severe budgetary strain for the state, on top of the already significant costs security issues will create.

Then there are the institutional questions for Israel as a state which claims both a Jewish and democratic character. Most annexation programs, including the so-called “stability plan,” avoid giving citizenship to the more than two million Palestinians outside of Area C. However, annexation would likely permanently preclude the possibility of Palestinian independence. This would leave Israel either perpetually administering disenfranchised Palestinians through an undemocratic arrangement or conferring citizenship to a large non-Jewish population, thus creating a binational state in which neither side fully realizes its right to self-determination.

There is also a risk of sanctions. The unilateral acquisition of territory violates international laws and norms. If the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea portends anything about the ramifications of West Bank annexation, it is that Israel could face severe penalties. While the United States may not suddenly rupture its relationship with Israel, diplomatic progress with Europe and the Arab world could be undermined or completely undone.

What the Annexationists Are Saying


The Annexation Process

The Ramifications of Annexation

Security Ramifications

Security Cooperation

The collapse of security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority.

Terrorism

A violent uprising characterized by extensive terror from the West Bank.

IDF Control

Renewed IDF control over the entire area, including Areas A and B.

Regional Cooperation

End of security cooperation with Egypt and Jordan.

More on Security Ramifications

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Economic Ramifications

Education

The annual cost of providing education to West Bank Palestinians.

4.1bn USD

Healthcare

A violent uprising characterized by extensive terror from the West Bank.

4.5bn USD

Social Welfare

Renewed IDF control over the entire area, including Areas A and B.

8.13bn USD

Defense Budget

End of security cooperation with Egypt and Jordan.

558m USD

Annual Cost:14.9billion USD

More on Economic Ramifications

Diplomatic Ramifications

End Chance for Two-State Solution

Annexation would close the opportunity for any future negotiations and nullify the Oslo Accords, cancel the Paris Agreements, and dismantle the Palestinian Authority.

International Reaction

Israel’s standing in the international community would plummet, especially among influential EU countries and end bipartisan US support.

End of Regional Cooperation

Annexation would end cooperation with pragmatic Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states while compromising peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

Strengthen Iran, Hezbollah, and Other Extremists

Annexation will weaken Israel's relationship with pragmatic Arab states, the EU, and other Western allies, emboldening Iran and Hezbollah.

More on Diplomatic Ramifications

Want to learn more? Read the full report.

Ramifications of West Bank Annexation:Security & Beyond

An unprecedented study by Commanders for Israel's Security, with the support of Israel Policy Forum, examining the effects of West Bank annexation on Israel.

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