Has Israel already annexed the West Bank?
Ramallah, occupied West Bank - While the international community and media created an uproar when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intent to annex the West Bank in a bid to garner votes during last month's elections, many Palestinians living in the occupied territory were not fazed by the right-wing leader's words.
"It's obvious that the West Bank is already de facto annexed," Wael Abdul Raheem, a 35-year-old lawyer residing in Ramallah, told Al Jazeera.
He recounted a recent incident when he was handed a traffic fine by an Israeli police officer on Road 60 - an Israeli road that cuts through the occupied territory used by both Israelis and Palestinians - near his village of Madama in the northern West Bank.
"I had to go to Beit El (an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank) in order to pay the fine. Israel already treats this area as its own. So, no, I definitely was not shocked by Netanyahu's statement," he said.
An official annexation of parts or the whole of the West Bank would likely result in a dramatic escalation of policies, which Palestinians say are aimed at eroding basic rights and self-determination.
However, Israeli and Palestinian analysts have told Al Jazeera that international concerns over Netanyahu's comments were not reflective of reality, which has seen an incremental process of annexation in the occupied territory for decades.
Since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, and particularly following the Oslo Accords in the 1990s that broke up the West Bank into Areas A, B, and C - leaving about 60 percent of the land under full Israeli military control - "Israel has used and treated the entire area as if it was a part of sovereign Israel," Amit Gilutz, spokesperson of Israeli rights group B'Tselem, said.
Unlike the rest of the West Bank, however, East Jerusalem was officially annexed into Israeli territory after Israel's military conquest of the area more than a half-century ago.
According to Yara Hawari, a fellow at the independent Palestinian policy network al-Shabaka, there was a juncture between the international uproar following Netanyahu's statements and the realities on the ground.
"In reality, there is one regime which controls everything from the river to the sea, and that's the Israeli regime," she said.
In Area C, home to about 300,000 Palestinians, the Israeli army has full control over the management of resources, planning and construction, and strictly limits Palestinian construction or development to less than one percent of the area, most of which is already built up, according to the UN.