In advance of new elections due to take place on 17 September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced new plans for the annexation of Palestinian territory, pledging to annex a big chunk of the West Bank to Israel.
Prior to elections in April, he announced plans to formally annex 60% of the land area of “Area C” of the West Bank. The new proposal would cut off the Palestinian Territories’ border with Jordan, and leave cities like Jericho as enclaves entirely surrounded by Israeli territory.
Some, including Netanyahu’s main political rival, Benny Gantz, who heads the centre-right Blue and White coalition, have dismissed the announcement, made in theatrical fashion by Netanyahu unveiling a map showing the new proposal, as an election stunt.
In other statements, Gantz and other “opposition” figures such as Ehud Barak, the former Prime Minister who now heads the would-be leftist Democratic Union coalition, have indicated they could accept some form of annexation.
Should he win the elections and succeed in forming a government, Netanyahu may be held back from acing on his plans by the opposition of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a key international ally and after whose political style Netanyahu clearly models himself.
However, there is no doubt that Netanyahu’s Likud party and its potential far-right governing partners have the ideological will to carry out such a move.
Netanyahu has stated that “not a single Palestinian” will be granted Israeli citizenship, meaning that Palestinian subjects of direct Israeli rule will be condemned to a perpetual second-class status.
In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, Islamist groups launched rocket attacks against Israeli targets. Many believe annexation will lead to an upsurge in violence.
Much has been written about whether the announcement renders a two state settlement — an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel — an “impossibility”.
Certainly it is true that, should annexation take place and be consolidated over a period of years, the material basis for an independent Palestinian state could be so completely atomised as to be unviable. But, on the basis of current trends, any remotely progressive “one state solution” is equally “impossible”: the only “one state solution” conceivable now is the version Netanyahu is working towards, an expansionist “Greater Israel” with privileges for Jewish citizens and dispossession and disenfranchisement for Palestinian subjects.
A two-states programme — the demand for a genuinely independent, viable Palestinian state in contiguous territory — in fact acquires a renewed radicalism in the face of Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist intransigence, as the only immediately practicable rupture with the status quo around which a social consensus could be built. Alternative “solutions” only become possible after a lengthy period of peace and security, such as a unitary binational federation; or would require a bloody war (the Israeli state being overthrown by external force), the only conceivable prosecutors of which, such as the Iranian and Syrian states, are no guarantors at all of freedom for the Palestinians.
Progress is only possible via a radical transformation of the balance of forces. This necessitates international diplomatic pressure on Israel, including sanctions in the forms of arms embargoes and the withholding of aid.
But what it fundamentally requires is social upheaval within Israel itself, and a breaking of the Israeli-Jewish working class from ideological commitment to the Israeli state’s colonial project. Jewish-Arab groups like Standing Together, with its commitment to anti-racism and equality of national rights combined with a focus on working-class social struggle, while as yet embryonic, are key to affecting such an upheaval.
Socialists internationally can contribute best by protesting directly against Netanyahu’s plans. We should do that on a direct and concrete basis, not on the basis of a reactionary maximalism than imply no progress is possible until Israel as such is “smashed”.
We will promote direct links and solidarity with Standing Together and others.