By William J. Furney
Israel’s prime minister may be standing trial on multiple charges — bribery, fraud and breach of trust, all of which he denies — but that’s not stopping the bombastic Middle East leader from trying to swipe more land from the impoverished Palestinians.
Benjamin Netanyahu, 70, who is Israel’s longest-serving leader, having helmed the country for 11 years and earlier this year secured another four years in office, wants more Palestinian land and is seemingly determined to soon make an additional daring grab.
It will, Bibi says, amount to another “glorious chapter in the history of Zionism” and one based on Donald Trump’s stalled efforts to instill peace into the fractious region. For the more than 5 million people living in the Palestinian territories (compared to nearly 9 million Israelis), who are hoping for statehood, it’s certainly no reason for celebration.
It’s not yet known the scale of the proposed annexation, which is sure to create another firestorm in the tinderbox Middle East, but the Israeli government has told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that it may amount to “only two or three settlement blocs,” The Times of Israel reported, referencing a local media report that cited a senior Palestinian official.
Israel has long been emboldened by its encroachments into Palestinian areas, because even though most of the world protests, it has ignored successive United Nations Security Council resolutions and suffered no consequences at all — de facto giving Israel the go-ahead to bulldoze at will, and yet another instance of how inept, impotent and irrelevant the UN actually is.
After all, the global body was established to bring about peace in the world and has largely failed, just like its World Health Organisation arm was established to protect the health of the world and, given the current pandemic, has failed, with just under half a million lives lost and 10 million people infected around the world so far this year, that we know of.
“Israel has always wanted [Palestinian] land — without its people,” Palestinian lawyer and writer Raja Shehadeh wrote in The New York Times last September, calling the Israeli leader “shamless” and saying further annexations would effectively tear up peace agreements like the Oslo Accords. “Most Palestinians living in the areas slated for annexation have already lost their land and they would not get it back. They would simply be condemned to remaining laborers in the service of Israeli usurpers,” Shehadeh said.
It’s not news that Israel can effectively do as it pleases, due to the unwavering backing of the United States.
Europe’s politicians are far from impressed. More than 1,000 parliamentarians from 25 countries in the prosperous bloc, who believe in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, wrote in a joint letter this week that they were alarmed by the prospect of another land seizure by Israel.
“We, parliamentarians from across Europe committed to a rules-based global order, share serious concerns about President Trump’s plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the imminent prospect of Israeli annexation of West Bank territory. We are deeply worried about the precedent this would set for international relations at large,” they said.
“We are profoundly concerned about the impact of annexation on the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as its destabilising potential in a region on our continent’s doorstep. These concerns are no less serious at a time when the world is struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic, the largest collective emergency we have faced for decades.”
The pols said that an end to the troubles would necessitate guaranteeing the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians — not that such an endeavour is likely to occur any time in the near future — and that “Europe has the diplomatic tools to promote this just goal”.
But there’s little that can prise Bibi from wresting yet more land from the long-suffering Palestinians and appeasing the right-wing electorate who see their promised land as one that can only get better and bigger.
As I write, the Israeli cabinet is meeting to sign-off on plans to annex more West Bank land, next Wednesday, giving Israel control of up to 30% of the Palestinian area. Palestinian group Hamas has said the move is a “declaration of war”, and in recent days, rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza.
It’s reported that the Israeli secret service, Mossad, has warned of a “massive conflict” in the region if the land-grab goes ahead. A small Jewish nation surrounded by massive Muslim countries many times does not do itself any favours at all.
And as the Europeans noted, at a time of global health alarm, possible more deaths because of ongoing Israeli misadventures is the last thing the world needs.
- Title image is a file photograph by Mohamad Torokman of Reuters.