Setting the Table for Annexation
Will the deep divides over annexing land change the outcome?
The American rendering of the expression “to table a measure,” versus its more common international usage, provides a remarkable irony relative to the intense controversy in the Middle East known as “annexation.”
In this context, of course, it’s a reference to extending sovereignty in the form of full Israeli civil law rather than part military rule to Jewish enclaves (read “settlements”) in the West Bank and Jordan Valley.
Illustrating the explosive nature of annexation is the change to fast-tracking settlement building under what would now be local law rather than the present military-political maze that must be navigated before construction is approved.
Certainly qualifying as one of the more contentious actions by either side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, threats abound while heated predictions foretell of mass instability-cum-unbridled violent reactions if the Netanyahu government proceeds on July 1 with what has become his signature measure/prime ministerial legacy.
So contentious is the matter that it has divided not only the usual proponents and adversaries on each side – right and left – of the debate, but has wrought internecine discord among interest groups presumed to be solidly for – or against – annexation.
Hence the grammatical irony: Team Netanyahu, at one point unhesitatingly backed and enabled by a White House green light for a policy at odds with most other nations, seeks to “table annexation” in the American sense: to submit it for consideration, to make it happen. Simultaneously, the rest of the world also seeks to “table annexation” – albeit according to the “all-but-US-usage” – ending discussion of the measure so that it does not happen. Period/full stop.
Indeed, in this region, where issues far less controversial respire provocatively but do so along party lines, annexation’s toxicity has driven traditional comrades apart with the ferocity of talking religion or politics at Thanksgiving dinner.
During the recent Israeli election campaign(s), voters were told that except for certain caveats, Prime Minister Netanyahu and challenger Benny Gantz agreed on support for annexation. But as July 1 nears, the Blue and White governors-in-waiting have made it clear that their support is not so clear. Apparently, former army chiefs-of-staff Gantz and Ashkenazi cannot agree with the present prime minister on details of the map.
Among the Israeli public, division runs so deep that even the iconic right-wing, the “settlers,” are speaking with two voices – the rarest of political realities – with one group unable to accept the Trump plan’s provisions for a contiguous Palestinian state and interim construction freezes.
In Washington, amid signs that the administration is increasingly seeing the annexation as an unnecessary distraction amid the domestic chaos that notably lacks an upside relative to the president’s re-election, Republicans and Democrats have penned letters of point-and-counterpoint, with a notable lack of party discipline that includes stalwart supporters of the Jewish state counseling its leaders to forego annexation as a unilateral act.
While the United States remains consumed with racial unrest the likes of which has not been seen in decades, and a presidential campaign spilling over with angst and anger, the question already being addressed is “The Day After – at What Cost?”
Some other aspects to ponder include:
- Will the unilateral act lead to even less cooperation with allies and Israel’s celebrated newfound friends from the Middle East?
- Will Israelis be safer for it?
- Can the US regain the trust of the Palestinian leadership as an honest broker to move President Trump’s Vision for Peace forward?
Even if you believe annexation is the correct move, it does not mean it’s prudent. The agenda should be set by facts on the ground rather than a time clock.
If President Trump fails in his bid for re-election, then a partially-cooked annexation looms menacingly over a new administration, as well as the Israelis and Palestinians.
We will soon learn which concept of “tabling” will provide President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu and his successors food that is ripe for thought or too bitter to bear.