SHOULD ISRAEL HOLD A NATIONAL REFERENDUM ON WEST BANK ANNEXATION?

conceptual maps proposing land stops for Israelis and Palestinians in the Deal of the Century (CC White House)

Never a dull moment in Israel! At the crack of dawn, my alarm clock jolted me awake. I was all set to write about the pros and cons concerning the number-one topic on Israel’s agenda – Prime Minister Netanyahu’s half-baked plan to start annexing Judea and Samaria on July 1. The word from Washington was, “Trump is willing.” Then, to make sure I was on target, I turned on the radio to hear the latest news from the “Voice of Israel.” 

Stop the Presses!

According to the reliable Syrian Human Rights Watch, Israeli jets carried out an airstrike on Iranian targets inside Syria. So, the looming annexation was relegated to second place – besides, at best, it is all of three weeks away, and who knows what can happen in Israel in that space of time. 

Keep Your Eye On The Ball …

Although Trump’s sanctions have rocked Iran, the Ayatollahs are still determined to build a forward military base against Israel inside Syria. This would complete a dangerous military front when coordinated with the Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon. 

IAF F-35I Adir

A Lebanese security official disclosed that Israeli jets flying over Lebanon had launched rockets at four targets inside neighboring Syria. The Israeli aircraft then flew back to Israel. At least nine people were killed near the town of Masyaf in northwest Syria. Reportedly, four of the dead were Syrians. The anti-Assad monitor, which operates outside of Syria, added that the number of casualties was expected to mount. The Israel airstrike sparked big fires, and apparently, arsenals of weapons had been destroyed. A scientific center, possibly run by Iranians for developing advanced weaponry, was reportedly among the targets. 

West Bank Annexation Gains Momentum …

Not to worry. Netanyahu has informed Defense Minister Benny Ganz to instruct IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to prepare the army for any Palestinian outbreak of violence that may be triggered by the annexation.

Strangely enough, not all the gungho settlers are pleased. They note Trump’s “Deal of the Century” grants the Palestinians something like 70% of the West Bank, whereas Israel receives the remaining 30%. Therefore, the Netanyahu annexation would apply only to this 30%, and that’s not enough for the diehards. Some of the extreme settlers even declared, “Trump is not our friend because he supports a Palestinian state in most of Judea and Samaria!” 

At present, it is fair to say that Netanyahu is trying to tread his way through a dangerous minefield – “Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t!” At best, he is faced with sticking to the Trump blueprint of an eventual Palestinian state while facing his Right-wing supporters that view this as anathema.

MK Avigdor Lieberman (photo by Michael Thaidigsmann, CC BY-SA 3.0)

On this score, it is interesting to hear the views of Knesset member Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the Russian Immigrants party, who is a bitter rival of Netanyahu. However, Lieberman was once a bosom pal of Bibi and may know Netanyahu’s enigmatic personality as well as anyone. Interviewed by the Ynet news agency, Lieberman peered into the current foggy situation: 

Lieberman

“Bibi, as usual, is playing a double game. First, we should not expect that President Trump will tell us exactly what we want to hear. In the past, the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin declared Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights in just one day! That’s the way it should be done – but Netanyahu has been pussy-footing for 14 months. I’ll give you an example – the PM, if he were serious, should have required all the necessary staff work from the IDF Chief of Staff and the Director of the Shabak security service, but he has left them out of the picture. Instead, he has given the whole world time to organize against annexation. Have you just heard Joe Biden (who is opposed to Israel’s unilateral annexation), the Europeans (threatening economic sanctions), and Jordan’s King Abdallah (warns he will abrogate the Israeli-Jordan peace treaty)?”

Lieberman’s Assessment: “Bibi is actually building a “Palestinian” state, not only by his declarations, and annexation is only a code word. Look, for example, how Netanyahu has now backed down on supporting an Israeli bill to force Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stop paying “salaries” in the billions to Palestinian killers who are now serving time in Israeli prisons”!

Question

But would Lieberman’s party support a Netanyu bill to annex part of the West Bank? 

Lieberman

“My party will only support an annexation bill that resembles Menachem Begin’s annexation of the Golan Heights.” 

Question

Are you not worried about a violent flare-up by Palestinians on the West Bank?

Lieberman

“I suggest we do not panic. I remember the scare-scenarios about Arab violence before the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In the final analysis (I say from the knowledge of actually living among Palestinians in Judea and Samaria) they are mainly concerned about their own standard of living and worry more, like all normal people, about their personal lives and schooling for their children.”

Efrat, Israeli settlement in the West Bank (photo by Tewfik)

P.S. an IsraCast Consideration …

PM Netanyahu is now on trial for corruption charges. How might Netanyahu’s concern for preserving his political support and popularity among his right-wing supports affect his political decision making?

P.S. 2

Maybe Trump will reconsider and possibly alter his decision by saying it’s premature to carry out a unilateral annexation.

P.S. 3

Last but not least, the annexation has split Israel, therefore, IsraCast proposes the government hold a national referendum on this contentious issue that has such far-reaching implications. 

 

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