Monday, August 12, 2019

Creeping Annexation of the West Bank and the Death of the Two-State Solution

Updated February 2020

Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group has assembled an interesting database that shows how the situation in the West Bank is evolving from a state of occupation to a state of annexation, an evolution that gets very little coverage in the Western and, in particular, the American press.  This is particularly pertinent given the Trump Administration's recent recognition of Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights which was seized from Syria during the 1967 war and annexed by the Israeli government in 1981 and controlled by the Israeli military.  It is important to note that international law prevents annexing territory that is conquered during armed conflict; occupied territory must be held temporarily under a regime of occupation until circumstances change and the territory is returned under an official agreement.  It is also important to remember that Palestinian residents of the West Bank are not citizens of Israel and do not have the right to vote meaning that they have no ability to influence the legislation passed by the Knesset on their behalf.

Let's look at some background information.  According to the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories or B'Tselem, at the end of 2017, there were 131 government-sanctioned Israeli settlements in the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem and settlements within Hebron) and an additional 110 settlement outposts located throughout the West Ban that are not official recognized by the Israeli government.  According to data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, at the end of 2017, 413,400 Israelis were living in West Bank settlements and an additional 209,720 Israelis living in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem at the end of 2016.  In 2017, the population growth rate of Israeli settlements on the West Bank was 3.5 percent compared to 2 percent in Israel itself with much of the population growth accounted for with the arrival of new immigrants to Israel and Israelis that relocate to the West Bank.

Here is a map showing Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank current to the end of 2016:

The Palestinian areas are shown in white; as you can see, Israeli settlements have created a number of Palestinian-controlled areas that are isolated from each other by Israeli-controlled "no-go" zones.

Here is a map showing the population growth of Israeli settlements since 2009:

Here is a map showing Israeli construction starts since 2013:

Here is a map showing demolitions of Palestinian structures that have taken place in the West Bank since 2009:

Lastly, here is a map showing how Palestinians have lost control of most of their homeland since 1946:

With that background, let's take a look at Yesh Din's annexation legislation database.  According to Yesh Din, during the 20th Knesset from March 31, 2015 to April 28, 2019, there was a marked shift in Israel's policy toward the West Bank.  What was once de-facto annexation became de-jure annexation with sixty bills pertaining to annexation being proposed during the 20th Knesset.  Of the sixty bills introduced by right-wing members of the Knesset, eight became law.  This shows the world that Israel's parliament regards itself as the legislative authority in the West Bank.  Let's look at some examples of proposed legislation which would result in Israel's annexation of the West Bank and their current status:

1.) Annexation of the Entire West Bank Bill - presented for preliminary debate :

2.) Norm Law Bill - presented for preliminary debate:

3.) Expropriation Law - approved:

4.) Encouragement of Capital Investments in Settlements Law - approved:

As you can easily see from these four examples, there is a strong movement in Israel's legislative body to increase its control over the West Bank.

In a poll in March 2019, 42 percent of Israelis backed total annexation of the West Bank with only thirty-four percent supporting a two-state solution.  Israel's moves in the West Bank have sent one very clear message to Palestinians; the two-state solution is dead.  A one-state reality for Israel and Palestine is now firmly in place.

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