A group of former EU ministers recently published a letter in The Guardian warning that the situation in Israel and Palestine is “sliding into a one-state reality of unequal rights” as they called for adherence to the two-state solution within the framework of the Oslo Accords.
Although clearly an attempt to challenge the further deterioration of Palestinian rights, particularly in light of what appeared to be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election, the letter obscures the fact that the one-state reality is already here, and provides complicit cover for the worsening situation in the West Bank.
Two weeks before the 9 April elections, US President Donald Trump boosted Netanyahu by formally recognising Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights, Syrian land it has occupied since the 1967 war.
Violating international law
With one signature, the US rewarded Israel’s lengthy violation of international law, laying the groundwork for its annexation of the rest of the West Bank (East Jerusalem was occupied in 1967). A few days before the election, Netanyahu vowed to begin the annexation process. This was not a rogue statement: most Likud members who ran for re-election are behind it. In this context, it is easy to envisage Trump giving his seal of approval to this move as well.
Annexation would mean a series of legislative measures extending Israeli sovereignty over settlements in the West Bank, leading to the consolidation of Bantustan-like entities for Palestinians. Rather than one sweeping move, annexation will continue to be a gradual process, turning Israel’s de facto control into de jure control.
Calling Israel what it is – a single apartheid state – opens a new box of tools to tackle the power imbalance
This process began more than 50 years ago, in 1967, when Israel gained complete control over all of historic Palestine’s borders – land, sea and air – giving it effective control over the movement of people and goods. Even when Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas wants to leave the West Bank, he must obtain Israel’s permission.
While the PA has control over the Palestinian population in Area A (less than a fifth of the West Bank), broader control of land and resources by Israel is absolute, and these are diverted for the benefit and use of Israeli Jews.
On both sides of the Green Line, Israel limits Palestinians to as little land as possible. This has been seen through the gerrymandering of borders in Jerusalem; the expulsion of Bedouin communities, such as Khan al-Ahmar; and the appropriation of huge swathes of Palestinian land in the Galilee and the Naqab, in present-day Israel.
Meanwhile, the Israeli practice of segregating populations is becoming more apparent, though the legal mechanisms that divide Jews from non-Jews are decades old. The passing of the nation-state law last year outraged many progressives, as it seemingly enshrined Jewish supremacy through its declaration that Jews alone have the right to self-determination in the land.
Yet, the law only reiterated what already exists in Israeli legislation, particularly in its Basic Laws, which function as the state’s constitution. While Palestinian citizens of Israel are permitted bits of nominal political space, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and Syrians in the Golan, have no say over the administration that governs them.