Has Netanyahu Been Forced to Compromise on His Annexation Plans?

Haaretz reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with 11 settlement leaders this Sunday who approve of US President Donald Trump’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank. However, the Prime Minister hinted that Israel is yet to receive a green light to annex, and that it is likely that less territory would be annexed than originally planned.

When are Settlements Being Annexed?

Knesset Speaker Yariv Levin also confirmed that some progress in the annexation process is expected within a few weeks. Netanyahu is keen to ensure that the initiative is implemented before the US presidential election in November, because there is no guarantee that Trump will be re-elected to continue with his Middle East peace plan.

Oded Revivi, the head of the Efrat council in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, and Nir Bartal, the council head of Oranit, a town on the Green Line northeast of Tel Aviv, have all approved of the plan.

Settlement Leaders Oppose a Palestinian State

However, settlement leaders remain opposed to implementing elements of Trump’s plan, particularly the intention to transform 15 settlements into enclaves on July 1. They also oppose the formation of a Palestinian state and the freezing of construction outside the blocs intended for annexation.

Netanyahu argues that the reason why less territory is being annexed than originally planned is because the plan has not been drawn up yet.

Even though the plan has the support of Netanyahu’s new coalition partner, the leader of the Blue and White Party, Benny Gantz, recent circumstances do not necessarily mean that the Israeli Prime Minister has been forced into a compromise if he is planning to annex less land than originally planned.

Many Countries Continue to Oppose Trump’s Plan

The Times of Israel recently revealed that the Israeli Government would initially annex about three percent of West Bank territory, covering the 132 settlements that are home to 45,000 Israelis. The remainder of the 30 percent of land that the Trump deal guarantees for Israel- most of which is in the Jordan Valley- would be occupied during a later period, when the US-Israeli mapping committee completes its task of determining the precise territorial divisions beyond the pre-1967 Green Line.

It is unlikely that international condemnation has forced Netanyahu into annexing less territory in the West Bank for now. The Palestinian Liberation Authority remains fundamentally opposed to Trump’s peace plan, as do many of Palestine’s closest allies. These include Turkey and Iran.

Istanbul has stated that the plan is a total annexation project aimed at destroying the two-state solution.

The Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) both announced their opposition to the plan as well. The United Nations has also urged Israel not to proceed with its plan.

Netanyahu Has Been Forced to Delay His Plans

Despite this, AA states that the UK is fully behind Trump’s peace plan, even though states like Germany offered a lukewarm response, as did the rest of the EU. Most importantly for Netanyahu, Trump still supports the plan and it is likely that the US will provide its final approval for West Bank annexation on July 1.

Finally, annexation remains popular among voters. Reuters discovered that a quarter of Israelis polled by the Israel Democracy Institute think-tank said they want their government to apply sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank without US support, whilst another quarter preferred it happened with the backing of Israel’s allies.

Therefore, Netanyahu has been forced to delay his West Bank annexation plans as opposed to compromising on them, which is why he intends to annex less land than he originally hoped for — albeit briefly. The Trump peace plan has encountered opposition from many Middle Eastern nations and the UN, but it still has US support and annexation will continue once the precise territorial divisions beyond the pre-1967 Green Line have been decided.