In recent months, Israel has made a series of relentless attempts to annex settlements bordering Jerusalem. Buoyed by Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Benjamin Netanyahu government has brazenly presented a slew of plans, resolutions, and bills toward this goal. Israeli politicians, administrators, and planners have also approved thousands of housing units to be built in settlements both in and around Jerusalem and deep in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Securing a demographic majority and expanding the settlements are part of a larger Israeli scheme to annex the West Bank.
Since 1967, Israel has limited Palestinian power, ownership, and habitation in the Jerusalem area while at the same time increasing Jewish-Israeli presence and control. While Jerusalem remains the only officially annexed Palestinian territory since 1967, the nationalist right wing in Israel has long advocated for the full annexation of the OPT.
The Greater Jerusalem bill of 2017 sought to annex a settlement cluster between Jerusalem and Hebron. If the bill, or any variant of it, were to be implemented it would have two momentous consequences: It would sever Palestinians from their capital, Jerusalem, “Judaizing” the city demographically and spatially, and would colonize the narrowest point of the West Bank, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.
Fundamental to both these outcomes is the proposed annexation of the city-settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and the strip of land that connects it to Jerusalem, known as the E1 corridor. The contested annexation of the E1 corridor seeks to formally bring Ma’ale Adumim into the fold of Jerusalem. It would also displace Bedouin communities who have lived in the corridor for generations. The majority of Bedouins would be relocated to three townships, forcing a lifestyle on them that is anathema to their nomadic existence.
Moreover, preparations for annexing the West Bank are already underway, as demonstrated by a non-binding resolution passed unanimously on January 1, 2018, by the Likud Central Committee. The resolution demands that Netanyahu, party leaders, and politicians “apply the laws of Israel and its sovereignty to all liberated areas of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria” – the name used by religious nationalists in reference to the West Bank.
- Nations other than the US as well as international bodies must apply pressure on the Israeli government to ensure any annexation bill is costly. Palestinian civil society and the Palestine solidarity movement must go further in raising awareness of how close the Israeli settlement project is to the point of no return in their current and planned campaigns with policymakers.
- The EU should move beyond platitudes of condemnation when its humanitarian assistance to vulnerable communities is confiscated or destroyed. It should actively hold Israel to account with diplomatic pressure, such as the recognition of Palestinian statehood. Simultaneously, the Palestine solidarity movement should identify ways to apply pressure on the EU, urging it to abide by its own regulations and its obligations under international law.
- The Palestinian Authority (PA) should make it clear that the implementation of any annexation bill would constitute a red line that, if crossed, would terminate all cooperation between the PA and Israel. An organized grassroots movement would both pressure the PA and strengthen its hand.
- The PA should create its own spatial vision of the area between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, supported by facts stressing the importance of the area to the viability of a future Palestinian state.