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Two Maps to Read the Situation

Two Maps to Read the Situation

Thursday, 28 May, 2020 - 12:00
Nabil Amr
Palestinian writer and politician

What kind of political implications will Israel’s announcement that it will annex 30% of the West Bank have? To answer this question we must draw two explanatory maps, one depicting the positions of states and political forces on the idea of annexation and the measures that it entails and another depicting the capabilities of states and forces that oppose it and their ability to hamper or impede.

The first map is clearer and can be drawn by examining declared positions.

Half of Israel opposes the plan or has some reservations or fears...

Half of the Democrats in the US oppose the plan for two practical reasons:

The first is that it is a Trumpist Republican plan, and the second is that Democrat administrations, during periods of peace-making attempts, were the ones who sponsored the negotiation process between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and they coined the idea of the two-state solution, which was the headline and goal of US policy for a long time.

Arabs, Europeans, and the rest of the world oppose, caution, or have reservations or fears; in short, those "against" are far more than those "with" the annexation.

The second map, which is of capacities, has been absent from Palestinian, Arab, and most international policies. This created a situation where positions have no bearing, rendering them merely symbolic or moralistic positions that have no real impact on the ground.

With regard to the issue of annexation, for which the first of July was set as a date for taking a decisive position by the Israelis, it is incumbent on the Palestinians first and foremost to determine the abilities of those who are opposed or reluctant in order to avoid being overly reassured by the fact that those who are opposed outnumber those who support the idea, as though that would guarantee the annexation’s failure, regardless of whether the US recognizes it.

The first triad which holds the most influence over the course of events is the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Egyptians, and three of them are opposed to the annexation and consider that it would put an end to the two-state solution that they had built their policies around, and their objections are genuine, which warrants an examination of their capabilities.

Egypt, which has diplomatic, security and economic ties with Israel, has not come close to threatening to end these ties, the cornerstone of which is the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, and this is what matters to Israel and the US.

The logical explanation of this Egyptian position is that when this great regional power took the initiative to make a peace treaty with Israel, it did so primarily based on its understanding of and commitment to its national interests. It saw that this peace treaty, which was described as unilateral, did not contradict its national obligations toward the Arab world, especially its younger sister, Palestine. So, Egypt would not contemplate revoking the treaty and what has been built on it unless Israel directly violated the spirit and provisions of the treaty… Thus, Egypt will maintain a dual stance, opposing the annexation while continuing to work toward reaching a two-state solution, without jeopardizing its treaty with Israel.

Jordan… All of Jordan’s serious positions against the annexation are sincere and grounded in Jordan’s very special relationship with the Palestinians. The Jordanians were counting on the two-state solution, which best serves their interests on every level. If this plan is abandoned or is replaced by a symbolic arrangement like Trump’s Palestinian state, it will inevitably raise deep concerns in Jordan. Who could predict the limits of Israeli expansion and the number of Palestinians that would be individually and collectively displaced to Jordan? This has been a source of concern ever since the occupation of the West Bank, and even before that, and this concern will grow when the Jordan River becomes a battlefront that Israel claims is defensive.

This position is then both logical and based on serious fears; however, Jordan’s relationships with the two states behind the annexation, Israel and the US, has developed and evolved despite limited popular enthusiasm for them. Moreover, even though Jordan’s relationship with Israel can handle some deep disagreements and confrontations, as the Jordanian monarch stated during his discussion with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, it cannot handle a dramatic shift like abandoning the treaty or breaking the security, economic and other ties that had been built on it. The issue would not remain limited to the framework of the Jordanian relationship with Israel, but would necessarily have implications on Jordan’s relationship with the US, which is fundamental for Jordan.

If politics were shaped by positions, the Arab-Israeli conflict would not have remained as it is now, far from a resolution both now and in the foreseeable future. As politics is shaped by capabilities, we are now seeing stable solutions, even unjust ones, move further away.

The circle of US-Israeli stances, in support or opposition of annexation, is nearly split in half. The Israeli circle of positions can be divided into three; there are the supporters of annexation who see a historical opportunity that may not be repeated, and those who hold this position view the US as the world. Then there are those who have reservations over how the annexation will be carried out, preferring that it be done with a degree of international, regional and Arab approval or indifference.

The third camp sees annexation in accordance with Trump’s map as an abandonment of Israel’s right to all land from the sea to the river. However, the outcome of the Israeli positions, based on Knesset vetos, is an agreement over annexation and disagreements over the ways in which it would be implemented on the ground, and as long as all Palestinian land is under direct and practical Israeli control, the basic agreement on annexation, regardless of how long it takes, will not be compromised.

In Israel, both those who support the annexation and those who have reservations about it, agree that the US is the key player. Those in a hurry to annex base this on the need to benefit from the Trump administration that may not be in office next Fall, while those who are reluctant have their eye on the Democrats’ reservations about it. Thus, the US is the first and last reference point for both sides.

The question then is: What if Trump failed in his bid for a second term and Biden won?

In this case, the Democrats’ administration will find itself facing a different reality, with the Israelis having taken a decisive position in favor of annexation and having implemented some hasty measures, with the previous administration having been committed to this decision. The new administration will be faced with the inevitability of repeating its commitment to its old plans despite the limited ability to enforce them, proposing that their solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a two-state solution and that holding negotiations is the best way to arrive at this solution. It will go back to the vicious cycle that has made us all dizzy, making Biden appear like a clone of John Kerry rather than Obama or Clinton.

The debate will then be held in Israel’s favorite house, Congress, where, whether Gantz or Netanyahu is prime minister, the debate will inevitably end with a transparent conclusion… It will not be decided by those who are with or those who are against them. The status quo will remain in place without any serious compromises being reached.

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